Today I learned to love the ham hock.
They used to scare me. Well, scare me and fascinate me all at the same time. I remember seeing them in the grocery store as a child and being in complete awe that people actually ate those nasty looking knuckle things. Then, throughout the years, I learned that they were used to flavor some of my most favorite dishes. I’ve looked at them in curious temptation a few times over the past year and finally decided to take the leap this week. I bought the ham hocks. Smoked ham hocks, specifically.
They’re ugly and inexpensive but will give your soups, stews and broths the most incredible, deep flavor that you’ve ever tasted. It’s just one of those things you have to get over. They come in packs of two and I only needed one so I wrapped the other tightly in plastic wrap, threw it in a freezer bag (labeled of course) and will use it to make an incredible split pea soup in the future.
Today’s ham hock was used to make an incredible batch of collard greens. If you’ve never had collard greens (I never had before moving to the south), you MUST try them. The best greens I had ever tasted were at Zea’s restaurant and I quickly put them on my “to cook” list after that. I knew I had succeeded when I wanted to eat the entire pot.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.10)
- 2 cloves garlic ($0.12)
- 1 whole smoked ham hock ($1.40)
- 2 Tbsp chicken base or 6 cubes ($0.60)
- 1 lb chopped collard greens ($2.79)
- to taste red pepper flakes ($0.05)
- Chop the garlic and place it in a pot with 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Cook the garlic for 1-2 minutes or until soft over medium heat.
- Place the ham hock in the pot with 6 cups of water and the chicken base. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 45 minutes.
- Remove the hock from the pot and stir in the chopped collard greens. Continue to let simmer for another 45 minutes. While the greens are simmering, remove the meat from the bone of the hock and return it to the pot with the greens (there is only a small bit of meat but it’s worth saving).
- Once the greens are tender (about 45 minutes), serve using a slotted spoon to let the extra broth fall away. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if desired.
- OR Continue to let the greens simmer without a lid for 1-2 hrs or until the broth has reduced in volume by at least half. This will produce an extra rich broth and super tender greens. The choice is yours.
Step By Step Photos
Start with the garlic and olive oil in a pot and cook until tender (1-2 minutes).
Here is the smoked ham hock. If you’re scared, make yourself stare at it until the fear goes away. You’ll thank me.
Add the ham hock to the pot then add 6 cups of water and the chicken base. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to low and let simmer for 45 minutes.
Wrap the other hock tightly, label and freeze. It’s too precious to waste.
I bought bagged, chopped collard greens because there were no bunches at the store. Bunches probably would have been half the price, btw.
After the hock has simmered for 45 minutes, remove it from the pot and add the chopped collard greens. Stir them then let simmer for 45 minutes.
While the collard greens are simmering, remove the meat from the boiled hock then add it back to the pot with the greens.
After about 45 minutes, the greens should be tender enough to eat. Either serve them now or continue to let them simmer for another 45 min-1 hr. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if desired.
NOTE: If you buy fresh bunches of collard greens, remove the stem by holding the base of the stem and pulling the tender leaf straight down off of the stem. Chop the leaves into 2 inch pieces and rinse well before cooking. Buying whole bunches of collard greens is usually much less expensive than the bagged type that I purchased.
If you do not eat ham, you can also use smoked turkey wings or smoked turkey necks.