Monday, April 10, 2017

Collard Greens and Smoked Neck Bones ... Soul Food!

     Smoked Pork Neck Bones and Greens!
     Soul Food was not always called soul food.  Before the 1960's, Soul Food was simply called old fashioned down home cooking.  Slow simmered recipes that are rich in nutrients are the hallmark of down home cooking.  Down home cooking is done with tender loving care.  Soul Food is a great name for this kind of cooking, because this cooking style satisfies the needs of the body and the soul!
     Soul Food definitely puts meat on the bones!  I was raised on this kind of down home country style southern cooking.  I was an athlete when I was in high school.  I can honestly say that soul food did make me feel stronger and healthier.  Coordination also seemed to improve after eating this kind of down home cooking.
     There once was an American champion bodybuilder in the late 1900's that used to preach about the benefits of eating old fashioned Soul Food.  During this same period in time, steroid usage was rampant amongst professional athletes.  I still remember a reporter asking the champion muscle man if he uses steroids during a television interview after winning another major event.  The big body builder smiled ear to ear and honestly said that he did not even take vitamins and the secret to his trophy winning physique was good old fashioned hearty Soul Food!        
     Soul Food adds strength and tensile strength definition to muscles.  Slow simmered cartilaginous bones and joints, like trotters, hocks and neck bones, create a rich broth that increases tendon strength, healthy heart valves and is toughens cartilage between the bones.  The rich broth in a pot of greens cartilaginous meat is call Pot Liquor.  The Pot Liquor is highly revered, because it is an elixir of life.
     Never discard the pot liquor from a slowly simmered soul food recipe!  The broth should be poured over the greens and neck bones before serving and any excess can be served on the side.  Cornbread or sliced white bread is great for sopping up the tasty pot liquor on a plate.          
     Collard Greens have the highest nutritional value of all leafy greens.  The flavor of Collard Greens is one of a kind and they go well with savory meat.  Smoked Pork Neck Nones provide plenty of flavor Collard Greens and this combination makes a great tasting savory pot liquor.
     There is plenty of meat on Pork Neck Bones.  Smoked Neck Bones are cure fully cooked and ready to eat items, but the meat is drawn tight to the bone after smoking and it can be tough if the Smoked Neck Bones are not fresh.  Slow simmering loosens the smoked meat on the neck bones and the meat becomes very tender.  The cartilaginous material softens too, so by all means, nibbling the meat and soft cartilage on the neck bones at the table is okay to do.
     I made today's Collard Greens and Smoked Neck Bones photo example while working in Chicago back in 2010.  The meat processing companies in Chicago have always been some of the busiest in the industry.  The Chicago meat smoking business district supplies great smoked meats to most of this nation.
     As one can guess, the closer the food market is to Chicago, the fresher the smoked meats will be.  The Smoked Pork Neck Bones in the photos were so fresh, that they had not even started to take on a darker dry aged color as of yet.  In fact, the patina coating had not even started to develop.  If the Smoked Neck Bones are fresh out of the smoker, they can be added to a pot of greens as is.  If the Smoked Pork Neck Bones are aged and they have a slimy patina coating,  then the patina should be removed before adding them to a pot of greens.  Placing the aged dark color Pork Neck Bones in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes will remove the patina coating.    

     Collard Greens and Smoked Neck Bones: 
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion (or 2 petite portions).
     *If the Smoked Pork Neck Bones are fresh, then they can be added to the pot of greens with no preparation.  If the Smoked Neck Bones are aged and dark color with a slimy patina coating, then the patina must be removed.  To remove the patina coating, follow these steps:
     • Place the Aged Smoked Neck Bones in a pot of boiling water over medium high heat.
     • Gently boil till the patina coating dissolves and floats to the surface.  (About 5 to 10 minutes.) 
     • Remove the Neck Bones from the hot water and let them cool.  
     • Rinse the Neck Bones under cold running water and set them aside.
     Step 1:  Soak 1 bunch of Collard Greens in sink full of cold water.
     Rinse the greens under cold water.
     Trim off any bruised or brown spots.
     Trim the tough stems and thick leaf veins off the collard greens.
     Cut the collard greens into large pieces that are about 2" to 3" wide.
     Set the prepared collard greens aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter (or bacon grease).
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/3 cup of small chopped onion.
     Sauté till the onions and garlic are tender.
     Step 3:  Add the prepared collard greens to the pot.
     Add 3 large Smoked Pork Neck Bones.  (About 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of meaty smoked neck bones is plenty.  Be sure that there is plenty of meat attached!)
     Add enough water to barely cover the greens and smoked neck bones.
     Step 4:  Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  (About 2 to 3 pinches.)
     Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or cider vinegar.
     Step 5:  Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Gently simmer till the greens are tender and the neck bone meat loosens.  (About 1 hour.)
     Step 7:  Remove the lid from the pot.
     Raise the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer till the amount of Pot Liquor reduces to about 1 cup.
     Keep the Collard Greens and Smoked Neck Bones warm over very low heat.

     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Step 1:  Use a slotted spoon to mound the Collard Greens and Smoked Neck Bones on a plate or a a shallow bowl.
     Step 2:  Pour some of the Pot Liquor over the Greens and Neck Bones.
     Serve any extra Pot Liquor on the side in a small soup bowl.
     Serve with sliced bread or cornbread on the side.

     Collard Greens and Neck Bones is a hearty meal that satisfies the body and soul!

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