Sometimes small discoveries can have a huge impact. Here’s one: we like canned greens, and greens as served at restaurants and cafeterias. And we know that greens should be a staple in any Appalachian stalwart’s diet—long growing season, easy to grow, satisfying, good for you. Unfortunately, whenever we cooked fresh greens we hated them: bitter, pungent, overwhelming.
Puzzled but undaunted, we decided to try it again. We bought a bunch of mustard greens and prepared them according to what seemed to be the standard recipe: wash and stem the leaves, fry up some onions and garlic in bacon grease, add some chopped bacon, add water, add the leaves, stir briefly until the leaves wilt enough that the water covers them, then simmer. Everything we read said that twenty minutes was long enough, but at the twenty minute mark the leaves still looked bright green and smelled awfully pungent.
Other things came up, and so we left them simmering for another forty minutes, figuring it wouldn’t hurt. Looking again, the leaves had cooked down completely and had that nice, dark look you expect. I tasted a bit of the pot likker (juice), and it was excellent, mellow and satisfying. As were the greens when we served them. So, the simple answer to our vexing problem was: just cook them longer.