1. Freeze bacon for 25 minutes, then cut crosswise into ⅛-inch pieces. Set aside.
2. Fill a sink with cold water. On a cutting board, stack four collard green leaves. Using a knife, remove stems and reserve for pickling. Cut leaves into 2-inch squares. Repeat with remaining leaves, and clean in cold water. Drain.
3. Heat oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add bacon. Cook until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer bacon to paper towels, reserving drippings in pot. Reserve bacon for garnish.
4. Return pot to medium heat. Cook onions and garlic in hot bacon drippings for 2 minutes, stirring often. Add ham hocks and cook 5 minutes, turning every 45 seconds or so. Pour cold water over ham hocks; add bourbon and vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes.
5. Stir in a quarter of the collards. Continue adding collards, a quarter at a time, stirring after each addition. After all collards have been added, simmer for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper and cook until the greens are tender, 1 to 1½ hours. Remove from heat and stir in red pepper flakes. Let stand 30 minutes before serving.
6. Meanwhile, remove the ham hocks; let cool slightly. Pull meat from bones, chop meat, and return to the pot. Discard bones.
7. To serve, sprinkle collard greens with reserved bacon and garnish with pickled collard green stems.
Pickled Collard Greens
Makes 8 quarts
1. Fill a 2-gallon stockpot half-full with water. Place 8 (1-quart) jars and their lids in the water bath. Bring to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes to sterilize jars and lids. Remove jars and lids using tongs or a jar lifter. Reduce heat to low and maintain a simmer.
2. Fill a sink with cold water. Cut collard green stems into 2-inch pieces and clean in cold water. Drain.
3. In a separate stockpot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil over medium-high. Fill a medium bowl with ice and water. Blanch stems, 2 cups at a time, in the boiling water, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer blanched stems to ice bath.
4. In a large stockpot, bring distilled water to a boil over medium heat. Add pickling salt, vinegars, peppercorns, and bay leaves, and cook until the salt is dissolved.
5. Transfer collard green stems to hot sterilized jars; top evenly with chiles, pink peppercorns, and crushed garlic.
6. Pour pickling salt mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup, reserving peppercorns. Discard remaining solids. Divide black peppercorns evenly among jars. Evenly pour enough pickling liquid into jars to cover collard green stems, leaving ½-inch headspace at the top of each jar.
7. Wipe jar rims; cover immediately with metal lids, and screw on bands (snug but not too tight). Place jars in simmering water in the stockpot. Add additional boiling water as needed to cover by 1 to 2 inches. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until jar lids are set. (Follow the jar manufacturer’s instructions for a good seal.)
8. Remove from heat. Cool jars in the water bath for 15 minutes. Transfer jars to a cutting board; let stand at least 3 days before using. Store in a cool, dry place at room temperature. Refrigerate after opening.