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Culinary Class: Eat Your Greens

Culinary Class: Eat Your Greens
Photography by Jonathan Boncek

Kraut Them Collards

So you’ve got a mess of collard greens. This leafy staple of the South is often stewed in large pots with a ham hock and served in its potlikker alongside a square of cornbread. The dish has warmed many a Southerner on a cold winter day, when collard plants have hit peak season. But another preparation, collard kraut, reigns supreme in Eastern North Carolina, where families gather annually to ferment the greens using recipes passed through the generations. The kraut is easily made in a stoneware crock, but any wide-mouthed, non-reactive container will do. Whichever vessel you choose, it must be sanitized.

The greens are salted, packed into the container, and covered with brine. To ensure the collards remain fully submerged, weigh them down with a heavy plate or stone, or fill a plastic bag with brine, as we do here. Cover the container with a kitchen towel or lid that you open occasionally to release trapped air. Allow the kraut to ferment away from direct sunlight for about one to two weeks in warmer temperatures, or longer in colder weather months. If you see a frothy film on the surface during this process, skim it off with a spoon. Taste the kraut occasionally and transfer it to the refrigerator when it’s fermented to your fancy.

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