Collard Greens Potlikker

Photo: Jim Franco; Styling: Simon Andrews

Read on for the one thing you should never do when cooking a mess of greens.

Like most Southerners, I love digging into a plate of tender collard greens (or turnip greens, or mustard greens, or even kale), especially if they have been simmered for hours and seasoned with a little hot pepper vinegar. But the goodness of this dish isn’t really about what’s on the plate, it’s about what’s left in the pot. I’m talking about potlikker, the rich, savory liquid produced by cooking down a large amount of greens.

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Potlikker doesn’t look like much. It’s the brownish-greenish liquid that remains in the bottom of the pot once you’ve scooped out the greens. But no self-respecting Southern cook would pour it down the kitchen sink. Not only is it packed with flavor, it’s also full of nutrients—even more than the actual greens. Like bacon fat, potlikker is a useful byproduct of a dish that is as delicious and useful as the dish itself.

It can be saved as a stock to be used in place of vegetable or chicken stock in soups and stews, or you can drink potlikker straight. Strain the warm liquid and sip it as-is, or dress it up with hunks of cornbread, steamed rice, or any type of cooked pork.

Excellent potlikker starts with excellent greens, and we’ve got you covered in that department. Buy the freshest greens you can get your hands on and some good-quality smoked pork (or turkey). Then cook up a traditional pot of collards with crispy bacon and sautéed onions, or make a super simple version in your slow cooker. Either way, don’t forget to slurp that liquid!