A New Turn in the South: Sweetened Collard Greens

Sweetened Collard Greens

As I mentioned in my post, Getting foodie at the Buick Encore Lifestyle Event, I was very excited to meet Chef Hugh Acheson at his restaurant, Empire State South. I had been to one of his two Athens restaurants, Five & Ten and was a big fan of his from watching Top Chef. (When you have a second, check out Hugh’s terrific blog on the Bravo website.)  I had put off getting a copy of his cookbook, A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen, when I had dined at Five & Ten as I was too busy at the time to devote to serious cookbook reading since we had just moved to Georgia. I’m so glad that I did as I not only got a copy at the Buick event, but Hugh signed and personalized it for me. Swoon!

A New Year’s Resolution

When setting up my blogging goals for 2013, I wanted to do something different here at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet. So I decided to share some of Hugh’s healthier and more practical recipes with you this year. I’ll be cooking up some recipes from A New Turn in the South and sharing it here. I hope you enjoy it!

The first food I decided to tackle was collard greens since I had bought a large two pound bag of the stuff on sale, and needed to cook it up pronto! I’d made Tangy Collard Greens at Thanksgiving, and while my husband and I liked them, the kids thought they were too bitter. Well, after reading Hugh’s recipe I had the solution – add something sweet! He recommends sorghum or maple syrup. I used maple syrup since that’s what I had on hand, but I bet agave syrup would work, too.Collard Greens with Ham

Using up what’s in the pantry

I made some changes to Hugh’s recipe since I wanted to use up a few things in my pantry along with the collard greens. First, there was the bacon grease I had leftover from the previous weekend’s breakfast. I figured 1 1/2 tablespoons per pound of collard greens wasn’t too unhealthy and would add a lot of flavor.

I also used thick ham slices (leftover cold cuts from the kids’ lunches) instead of ham hocks and the ham broth that I had made over Thanksgiving and kept in the freezer. (You can use vegetable or chicken stock instead.) I also used regular red wine vinegar instead of the sherry vinegar and left out the pepper flakes in order to entice the kids to eat it. (Lucie refused to but Nathan loved the collard greens and asked for seconds! My husband, Paul, also had seconds while telling me how good the collards tasted.)

This is a dish that takes some time – about an hour. So if you’re making it on a busy weeknight, plan accordingly. To save time, buy prewashed and chopped collard greens, if they’re available at your grocery store. Leftover collard greens taste great cold or heated up in the microwave.

Collard Greens Sweetened with Sorghum

Sweetened Collard Greens

Sweetened Collard Greens

Based on Hugh Acheson’s Collard Greens recipe from A New Turn in the South (page 222)

You’ll need a very large stock pot to cook these in. Initially the collard greens will take up the whole pot, but don’t worry, they’ll cook down. If you don’t have a large pot, divide and cook up a batch in two pots.


  • 3 tablespoons bacon grease or olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 pounds cleaned collard greens, chopped into small pieces (buy these prechopped and cleaned to save time)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple or sorghum syrup
  • 4 cups stock (ham, vegetable or chicken)
  • 3 thick slices black forest ham, diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Serve and enjoy!


  1. Heat the bacon grease or olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook until it starts turning color.
  3. Add the collard greens to the pot and sauté for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the vinegar and cook down for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the maple or sorghum syrup, stock, ham, and kosher salt to the pot. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until stock is just about gone and collards are tender.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes
Servings: Serves 6
  • Serving size: 1/6 of recipe

Collard Greens with Sorghum and Ham

Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links. A commission may be earned from a referred sale to their website.

I received a complimentary signed copy of A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen at the Buick Encore Lifestyle Event. All opinions and experiences are my own.

4 thoughts on “A New Turn in the South: Sweetened Collard Greens

  1. Rajean

    Yum. I haven’t had ‘true’ southern collard greens in a few decades and now my mouth is watering. I’m pretty sure my mom did a similar recipe with kale, the food of the moment :-) One thing I was always amazed by is how much of it cooks down – a huge bunch which looked like it would feed an army was just enough as a side for my small, three person family.


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