Thanksgiving dinner was always a special dinner growing up on the farm. Mom loved cooking big dinners where family members came from afar to share the bounty of food that was mostly homegrown. Mom would sharpen her knife, grab a couple of baskets and walk down to the fields looking for “greens” — collard and turnip greens. Many local women would ask if they could have some also and the answer was always “yes.” What a sight to behold — five or six country women gathered in the field with cotton dresses on, bib aprons, towing baskets and their sharpest knives “cutting greens.” I loved walking along beside them listening to the “latest country news.”
Meanwhile, back at the barn, the brothers were putting the washing tubs up on benches and putting the hose on the outside faucet. When the greens arrived, they were placed in the empty tubs and sprinkled with salt and finally filled with water. Mom would sort through the greens and remove any that had yellow spots or not healthy looking. She would “wash” the greens through several rounds of cold water to check for grass or other things like bugs to make sure they were suitable. After about the fourth washing they were shook dry and placed the large canning pots on the stove that held a piece of fat meat for seasoning. A few minutes into the cooking a tsp of baking soda was thrown in the pot to ensure tender greens. The third and final step was draining off any water left in the greens. A sharp knife was held in each hand to chop the greens if they needed it. Mom liked the smaller greens to leave whole and simply lift out of the serving bowls. Usually we did the greens about two days before the dinner to have them fresh! I am sure there are very few folks doing this in 2022 as you can buy canned or frozen greens, but there “ain’t nothing” like farm fresh food prepared by a “country girl.” Now let’s gather some side dishes!
SOUTHERN-STYLE COLLARD GREENS
6 small bunches collard greens, about 3 — 3 1/2 lbs; 1 extra-large smoked ham hock, make sure it is meaty; 2 Tbsp granulated sugar; 1 Tbsp bacon grease; 1 Tbsp seasoned salt; 2 tsp Worcheshire sauce; 2 tsp apple cider vinegar; 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (you can go down on this to 1/2 tsp if you like less heat); 1/4 tsp garlic powder; 1/4 tsp paprika; 1/4 cup finely chopped onion.
Start by pulling and tearing greens away from stems. Take a hand full of greens, roll them up and cut the rolls horizontally into small pieces. We remove the stems, but this is a personal decision. Next, add greens to the empty clean sink and wash them removing all grit, sand and debris thoroughly with cold water until water becomes clear.
Next rinse the ham hock very well then add to a large pot along with enough water to fully submerge the ham hock then cover with a lid. Cook over medium high heat for about 45 minutes or until the ham hock is near being tender. Once the ham hock is almost tender, add greens and about 4-5 additional cups of water or enough to just barely cover greens to the pot. This will become your pot likker [sic].
Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and cook while covered for at least 2 hours or until completely tender. Most water should have evaporated by this point just having enough to barely cover the greens.
WESTLINE ROAD COLLARD GREENS
3 Tbsps lard or shortening, divided; 1 large onion, chopped; 6 garlic cloves, minced; 1-1/2 pounds smoked ham hocks; 6 cups water; 2 tsp seasoned salt; 1 to 3 tsps crushed red pepper flakes; 1/4 tsp sugar; 1 large bunch collard greens (about 2 pounds), coarsely chopped.
In a 6-qt. stockpot, heat 1 Tbsp lard over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cook and stir until tender. Add ham hocks, water, seasoned salt, pepper flakes, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until meat is tender, 55-60 minutes. Add collard greens and remaining 1 Tbsp lard. Return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until greens are very tender, 55-60 minutes. Remove meat from bones; finely chop and return to pan. Discard bones.
3 pounds of turnips, 2 ½ cups of water, 2 ½ cups of water, tsp of salt, ¼ cup of heavy cream, 2 Tbsps of butter, ½ cup of chopped bacon. Peel and chop turnips. Place in a pot and cover with equal parts milk and water with salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until soft, 20 to 25 minutes; drain. Puree with heavy cream and butter. Season with chopped bacon. Use a food processor or immersion blender to puree these veggies — they’re too hard for a potato masher unless you need the workout!
ROASTED SWEET POTATOES
2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium), 2 Tbsps extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp salt, black pepper. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Dice the sweet potatoes into 3/4” cubes, leaving the skin on.
In a large bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes with the olive oil, garlic powder, and salt. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the sweet potatoes on top in an even layer. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the cubes are tender and browned on the bottom. Serve warm.
Store leftovers refrigerated.
Make ahead instructions: make up to 3 days in advance and reheat in a 350-degree oven.
SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE
6 large, sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks, 1 cup white sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, 2 Tbsps ground cinnamon, 1 Tbsp butter, softened, 1 cup miniature marshmallows or as many as you’d like!
Place sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover with salted water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes; drain. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a deep casserole dish.
Mash potatoes with a potato masher in a bowl until no large lumps remain. Stir in both sugars, cinnamon, and butter until well combined, then transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Cover with a layer of miniature marshmallows.
Bake in the preheated oven until marshmallows are browned, about 30 minutes.
6 to 8 small or medium red beets; extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling; 1 large navel orange; balsamic vinegar, for drizzling; juice of 1/2 lemon; handful of cooked collard greens; sea salt; and freshly ground black pepper. Preheat the oven to 400°.
Place each beet on a piece of foil and drizzle generously with olive oil and pinches of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Wrap the beets in the foil and roast on a baking sheet for 35 to 60 minutes, or until soft and fork-tender. The time will depend on the size and freshness of the beets.
Remove the beets from the oven, remove the foil, and set aside to cool. When they are cool to the touch, peel the skins. I like to hold them under running water and slide the skins off with my hands.
Use a citrus peeler to peel long strips around the orange, avoiding the white pith. Grated zest would work here also. Slice 3/4 of the orange into segments and reserve the remaining 1/4 wedge for squeezing.
Slice the beets into 1” wedges or chunks and place them in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar, then add the lemon juice, orange juice squeezed from the remaining wedge, and a few pinches of salt and pepper and toss. Chill until ready to serve.
Taste before serving and season with more salt (flaky sea salt, if using) and pepper or more vinegar (for more tang), orange, or lemon juice, as desired.
SWEET POTATO SALAD
3 large, sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed, maybe about 2 lb.; 1 small red onion, thinly sliced into half moons; 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil; salt; freshly ground black pepper; 1/2 c. dried cranberries; 1/2 c. crumbled feta; 1/4 c. freshly chopped parsley.
Dressing: 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp. honey, 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, 1/4 tsp. ground paprika, 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil.
Preheat oven to 400°. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss sweet potatoes and red onion in oil then season with salt and pepper. Distribute them evenly on a sheet in a single layer. Bake until tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, make dressing: In a small bowl or in a medium liquid measuring cup, whisk together vinegar, mustard, honey, and spices. Gradually pour in oil, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
Toss sweet potatoes with dressing, cranberries, feta, and parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.
3/4 lb. Brussels sprouts trimmed and halved; 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2” pieces; 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil; 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar; 1 tsp. chopped rosemary leaves; 1 tsp. chopped thyme leaves; salt; freshly ground black pepper; 1/2 c. toasted pecans; 1/2 c. dried cranberries. Preheat oven to 400°. Scatter vegetables on a large baking sheet. Toss with oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender, shaking the pan halfway through. Before serving, toss roasted vegetables with pecans and cranberries.