Emeril’s Collard Greens

Collard greens and bacon on a red plate with apples and a water pitcher in the background.

In Essential Emeril, the famous chef says his mother never needed to nag him to eat his vegetables. In fact, his first “food memory” was picking vegetables in his family’s garden. For September, celebrate seasonal eating with this classic and versatile side dish that uses bacon and beer to add flavor to any greens.


  • 1 (1 1/2 lb.) smoked ham hock
  • 12 oz. thick-sliced bacon (about 10 strips), chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 2 (12-oz.) bottles beer (light or amber)
  • 1 Tbsp. hot sauce
  • 2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, plus more to taste
  • 6 large bunches dark greens, such as collards, kale, mustard or a mix, stems cut away, washed well, and cut into 2-inch pieces


Add the ham hock to a pot small enough to hold it and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover. Cook until the meat is fork-tender, about 1 hour. In a large Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the bacon and oil, and cook, stirring as needed, over medium-low heat until the bacon begins to render some fat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring as needed, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beer, hot sauce, salt, and black and red pepper. Bring to a boil, then add the greens one large handful at a time until the pot is filled. Cook, stirring as needed, until the greens wilt, then repeat with the remaining greens. When all of the greens have been added, add the ham hock (reserve the liquid for another purpose). Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook, stirring as needed, until the greens are very tender, 35 to 40 minutes longer. Taste, and adjust the seasonings. Remove the ham hock and separate the meat from the bone and the skin. Return the meat to the pot, stir into the greens, and serve.

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