Rachel's Collards

Submitted by Rachel Gordin Barnett

How I (Finally) Learned to Love Collards

When I was a kid growing up in a small Southern town, the staple lunch was fried chicken, rice and collards. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I could really appreciate those collards. Many Southern vegetable recipes call for pork for seasoning, but in my mother’s semi-Kosher Jewish kitchen, that wasn’t happening. So, to flavor the collards, a pinch of sugar, salt, pepper and butter were used.  I have “skinnied” my recipe now to use olive oil and chicken or vegetable broth to flavor. Italian seasoning and diced tomatoes adds a bit more “gourmet” taste.

  • 16 oz. bag of fresh collards (or one bunch – but will need to be thoroughly cleaned and chopped)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (or in season - fresh tomatoes work)
  • Small onion, diced
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Sauté chopped onion in olive oil until soft.  Add fresh collards, diced tomatoes, chicken (or vegetable broth), Italian seasoning, pinch of sugar, S & P. Give a good stir. Cover and cook on medium until vegetables are soft. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Why Kugels and Collards?

Food can tell a story. Delicious aromas, the taste of a special spice, a china pattern used for a holiday dinner can elicit memories, take us back to a particular time and place, and define a moment in history for us.

Why a blog devoted specifically to Jewish cooking memories? Because, our responses to sights, smells, tastes can help us tell our stories. Even today, when my kids come home and a brisket is cooking, they immediately know it is their grandmother Mimi’s brisket recipe. From those wonderful aromas wafting through our house, stories about Mimi’s Rosh Hashana dinners come pouring out. Great memories abound.

Columbia, South Carolina, is a town that relishes its Southern food culture. This focus on food is multiplied in the Southern Jewish home.  The “Southern” part of that identity was often embodied in the local cultures that define Southern cooking, among them African-American influences in traditional Southern cooking (minus the pork in vegetables!) combined with traditional Jewish recipes, many from our immigrant great-grandparents and grandparents.  A “Southern Jewish” food culture emerged. It is not unusual to have collard greens – a Southern staple that has its roots in the African-American culture - alongside fried chicken, “Jewish” brisket, tsimmes, rice, black-eye peas and the omnipresent kugel (noodle pudding) at a dinner table! Kugels and collards co-exist on the Southern Jewish table easily and are symbolic of the intertwining of our food cultures.

Kugels and Collards was born out of our interest in studying the history of these merging Southern and Jewish elements in our food ways in Columbia, South Carolina. Our hope is through recipes and memories we can collect, preserve, and share this special history with our readers.