I like to think the slow cooker was invented by a Southern home cook. Collards can sit in there for hours on end, breaking down as they should, the liquid turning into pot likker, the residual elixir of greens cookery that is like culinary platinum in the South. The wonderful aroma of collards cooking both excites my palate and calms my anxieties.
- Preheat a slow cooker on the high setting for at least 15 minutes.
- Fill the sink with cold water. Tear the collard leaves from their spines and into bite-size pieces, and submerge the pieces in the cold water. Thinly slice the spines against the grain. Add the sliced spines to the collard leaves.
- Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the fatback. Cook for 5 minutes, or until some of the fat has rendered. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes, until translucent. Empty the fatback and onion into the slow cooker. Using a slotted spoon or a mesh skimmer, scoop the collard leaves and spines from the water and place them in the slow cooker. Add the garlic, vinegar, molasses, red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add 2 cups of water and stir as best you can to combine the ingredients. Cover with the lid and cook on the high setting for 1 hour. Stir the ingredients (to ensure even cooking), re-cover the slow cooker, reduce the setting to low, and cook for 4 to 6 hours, until the collards are well broken down but not mushy. Season with salt to taste.
- The collards can be eaten immediately, served with the pot likker. Or they can be cooled and kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, a quick reheat away from a great side dish. You can also freeze cooked collards with their pot likker for up to 6 months. If you like them on the drier side, drain the pot likker from the collards—but be sure to drink that likker up. Likker Elixir: it keeps sickness at bay.
Reprinted with permission from The Chef and the Slow Cooker, copyright © 2017 by Hugh Acheson, published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.