Recipe and photos by Cody Owens
Born and raised in Alabama, I felt as though I had a moral obligation to learn how to make collard greens that would make everyone’s grandma proud. The kitchen has always been a source of great comfort for me—where I can retreat when life gets crazy. There’s something I find very Zen about preparing food for friends and loved ones, so it’s no surprise that some of my best memories have involved collard greens served alongside music, stories, and revelry (and plenty of wine).
These Coca-Cola Collard Greens started out of necessity. I had run out of sugar and realized it only after I’d started cooking some greens. I decided to use a Mexican Coke I had in the fridge (one that comes in a glass bottle and uses real cane sugar) to add some sweetness to an otherwise hearty dish. That was 10 years ago. I’ve spent the last decade fine-tuning this recipe, and I’m so happy to be able to share it with y’all.
1 large bundle of collard greens
3-4 smoked ham hocks
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, smashed
4 pieces of bacon, chopped
1 Tbsp crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 Mexican Coke (glass bottle with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup)
1 bottle Tabasco Pepper Sauce
(Season as you go with salt and pepper to taste)
- For broth, bring pot of water to boil (roughly 1/2 gallon) and add several large pinches of salt.
- Add ham hocks, leeks (cut and cleaned thoroughly), garlic, ½ of red onion (save other half) and peppercorns, reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for 2 hours.
- Strain broth and remove ham hocks, separating meat from bone with a fork. Toss out large fatty bits.
- In heavy-bottom pot, add chopped bacon bits, thinly sliced red onion, and red pepper flakes. Wait until bacon is just starting to crisp and deglaze pan with 1 bottle of Mexican Coke. It is very important that the Coke has cane sugar. Do not use any other kind of sugar.
- Add ham hock bits and let that reduce for several minutes.
- Slowly begin adding collards that have been cleaned and cut into manageable pieces. Let them wilt slightly before adding more.
- Once all collard greens are in the pot, add roughly 3 cups of ham hock broth, reduce heat, and cook for at least 45 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add the entire bottle of pepper sauce. Best served with cornbread.