The time has just about come for the annual “cooking of the cabbards” to fill the freezer! Like a squirrel stowing away acorns for the winter, I too, “get my cook’n on” once our local collards have had a good kissing o’ the frost. Some think that’s just an old tale, but not this gal, lovingly called THE “Collard Queen” by those lucky enough to have had some bestowed uponst them by said ‘queen’ or have rubbed their full bellies after a sit’n at her table… served up with a side of Crispy Cornbread Cookies, some Molasses Butter, a warm cup of Pot Likker or cold buttermilk. And don’t forget the farmers’ market treasures… including a menagerie of homemade chow chows destined to crown a heap’n helping of fall’s green ‘gold!’
So I’m in my kitchen a few days ago cooking cornbread cookies for this here post… setting up my photo shot, and about to savor the very last tidbit of my 2010 stash of cabbards I lucked up and found tucked into a back corner of the freezer when…”ding dong”… my doorbell rings. My kitchen sidekick and 7YO nephew hollers…“Dee Dee, who is THAT?” (seeing as how it is mid-afternoon and we’re still in our loungy clothes watching movies, blogging and eat’n). I looked at him and said… “I have NO idea!” But I surely am hoping it’s somebody that won’t mind my receiving them in my ‘old lady house dress,’ (probably something akin to what my grandmas were wearing when they cooked collards) and Wyatt, running around in his ‘underdraws.’ I swing the door open, and there stands my cousin Mark… who I see fairly rarely, but usually when he drops by (less often than the proverbial blue moon), he has some sort of vegetable(s) gleaned from a nearby garden. He leads me out to the back of his pick up truck (the preferred method of transportation for most of us country folk)… and what do I see…. THESE! *C.O.L.L.A.R.D.S*
I’m not believing this… as mere seconds ago I’m in my kitchen, cooking up, photographing and in the middle of writing this very blog post about collards… when a big ole’ mess of them land on my front porch… the weirdness of this timing is CRAYzee! And as delighted as I am about all this, I’m trying to factor in my head… when in the world can I squeeze cabbard cook’n into this particular week’s schedule... with a TV show taping (see show video at My Carolina Today!) and a ginormous exciting photo shoot for Our State Magazine (where I’m so blessed to be food stylist and recipe developer…so subscribe if you don’t already, and buy holiday gift certificates too). But never one to let a little thing like ‘limited hours in the day’ get in my way… a cabbard cook’n will commence! I decided to just throw ’em in my big chest freezer till that can happen…something I have had to do before, and equates to that sweet kiss of frost… a BIG deep freeze kiss!
So without further ado, here is my much requested method for cooking collards (or in my case, “cabbards”). These are sooo good, and worth every minute of effort it takes to get from the back end of a truck to your supper (and sometimes breakfast) plate.
Wendy’s Locally Famous Cabbards (Cabbage + Collards)
As THE “throw cooker” that I am (come see my Throw Cooking web page and recipes), I’m going to tell YOU how to throw these together… exactness is not important here! These are the necessary ingredients and process. I have, on occasion, cooked these in MASS to fill my freezer for the winter, but you can do any amounts that work for you. A couple of years ago, I cooked 40 lbs. bacon and forget how many birds to have broth and bacon grease for 100 lbs. cabbage and 50 lbs. collards! It took me quite some time to figure all this out, but because the collards ‘evaporate’ and disappear in the pot, I decided to see what happened if I added in some cabbage… and it makes the collards even better… sweeter… AND, the cabbage doesn’t disappear as much as the collards… so you end up with a whole lot more “cabbards” to store away and nobody but you knows this little secret, till NOW!
- Chicken(s) or Hen(s)
- Bacon (lots!)… more that you think… you need a goodly amount of rendered bacon grease
- Collards… about 1/2 as much collards as cabbage (washed real good)
- Cabbage… about twice as much cabbage as collards (washed real good)
- BIG pot
- Cast Iron Skillet
Put some water in a big old pot and throw your chicken(s) or hen(s) in there. Bring to rolling boil, then reduce heat and keep cook’n till you have some tender bird and a big ole’ pot of chicken stock. Take that bird out and make yourself a mess ‘o chicken salad or freeze for cooking in other stuff, like Chicken Pot Pies or Brunswick Stew.
Get that big old cast iron skillet out and fry up a LOT of bacon. Sometimes on cabbard cooking day I’m outside doing all that AND cooking up a ginormous amount of my “Almost Famous Brunswick Stew”-will post that soon if you ask!… so I invite folks to drop by and eat bacon sandwiches. Put this bacon grease into a big can (coffee can works great).
Rough slice the cabbage. Throw some in the pot of broth, alternating with handfuls of torn collard leaves. As it wilts, keep adding more to the pot. Let this cabbard mix boil and boil… the more ‘tenderer’ the better.
On a burner beside this pot, put your big iron skillet on med-hi and add (generously) some bacon grease. With tongs, grab some of the cabbards and plop into the hot skillet, including some of the wondermous Pot Likker they produced. Start chopping with long-handled veggie chopper… as they cook down and shrink as you chop, continue grabbing more cabbards with your tongs and continue this process, stirring around to incorporate the bacon grease. Once these are really tender and chopped real good, dump into big bowl to cool before putting into containers and continue doing this until you’ve cooked all your cabbards.
When packing into containers, I try to leave good head space and top off with some of the broth so when heating, that is there to give a little moisture while warming.
Serve with Cornbread Cookies with Molasses Butter and mug of Pot Likker or Cold Buttermilk.
Wendy’s Crispy Cornbread Cookies
It’s really easy to throw together these crispy crunchy Cornbread Cookies and they are the perfect sidekick for your Cabbards.
- your favorite hushpuppy mix
- finely diced onions (any kind…sweet, green, scallion, chive, etc.)
- freshly ground black pepper
Mix hushpuppy mix according to package directions. Add in onions and sugar to taste (you want these to be lightly sweetened and the sugar helps make them crispy too). Grind in some pepper. If your mix is really thick, add a little more water or milk/buttermilk, whatever you are using until thinner and pourable/spoonable. I like to let my mixture sit about 10 minutes before cooking to adjust this consistency as it will thicken as it sits (but also, the flavors will marry a bit).
Heat thin amount of lard in cast iron skillet on med-high heat. With a tablespoon, spoon into hot skillet and spread thin with back of spoon. Fry until golden brown and flip; repeat on the other side. Drain well on brown paper bag or paper towels.
Serve with Molasses Butter alongside Cabbards with mug of Pot Likker or Buttermillk.
- Softened Butter
- Bacon Grease, optional
- Cinnamon or Apple Pie Spice, optional
Drizzle some molasses over butter and swirl to blend.
VARIATIONS: To make Molasses Bacon Butter, stir in a bit of bacon grease. A bit of cinnamon or apple pie spice is also tasty in Molasses Butter, depending on what you will be serving it with (especially great with pancakes, waffles or French Toast too)!