(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on November 29, 2007. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to new questions or comments.)

Brassica oleracea

Collards have more nooks and crannys than most other cruciferous vegetables of which the leaves are consumed, so washing is super important. Sand, grit, dirt, dust, teeny critters - you name it - these big leaves trap it all.

I start with a big sink of cold water. I'm right handed so as each leaf is lifted after a soak to let the yukkies drop to the bottom of the sink, I grasp the stalk end with my right hand.Image Then I place my left hand on top of my right hand in a fist and quickly zip it up to the top - big stem is all you have left in your right hand - quick and easy! The big pile of leaves are then stacked up and rolled into a "log o' leaves". With a sharp knife, cut the roll about every 1/2 " so that you have a mound of collard strips.

Here's where there are so many variations; all I can tell you is how we do ours - it serves 2 purposes. First, we take a big kettle of water and bring to the boil. We dump all the greens in for 2 minutes - no longer. This first step of blanching does two things. It allows us to take 1/2 the blanched batch and drain thoroughly in a colander, then lay out on a cookie sheet and freeze; then pack into ziploc bags for storage in the freezer. The remaining half has now been blanched just long enough to get a little extra of the bitter out.

The pot now gets, for every 2 lbs approx of greens, 2 cups of water, 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, 4 pieces of raw bacon diced, 1 large onion diced and 2 T canola oil or butter. Bring this mixture to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, then dump in the greens. Turn down to a gentle simmer, put the lid on and let cook for at least 1-2 hours. Several times during the cooking, lift the lid and stir in some hot sauce - we use McIlHenny's brand Tabasco.

It's really personal preference how long to cook your greens. I am always tasting as the lid is opened and it's so fun to watch the likker getting greener and more powerful. And NO - you don't Image lose all the nutrtional value just because you cook them. Plus, if you drink the likker afterwards, you get it all !

1 cup of cooked collards contain 49 calories, 4 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber. Vitamins abound - 1 cup of cooked collards provides 34 mg of vitamin C, 5900 IU's of vitamin A and 177 mcg of folic acid. As for minerals, 1 cup of cooked collards contain 226 mg of calcium, .87 mg of iron and 494 mg of potassium.

That's a whopping 1 cup of nutrition packed with great flavor and a fun way to start off the New Year. Hope y'all have some cornbread around to sop up the likker :)