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Removing bitterness from cooked greens

  • s

I just cooked a bag of TJs southern greens last night for tonight's dinner - a mix of mustard and turnip greens, collards, and spinach. Doing a s/p taste test, I noticed the mixture was quite bitter. I'd never had mustard or turnip greens before - those may be the culprits, or it just might not be the highest quality.

In any case, I have serious doubts my 4 yr old would eat it unless I can figure out something to cut the bitterness a tad. The greens have already been cooked in some broth, garlic, and browned sausage bites for about 30 minutes. It may be too late - if it is, please tell me so. Thanks!

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  1. To cut bitterness, you can add acid (try a bit of vinegar or lemon juice), salt (looks like you've already done that plus the broth and sausage are probably salty), or sweetness (but I wouldn't do that here). If those don't help, dilute the bitter impact by serving your greens over a neutral starchy food: pasta, polenta, mashed potatoes, grits, crostini, etc. Next time you may want to blanch them in lots of salted water before sauteing.

    1. c
      cinderella525

      Mustard greens are, by their nature, bitter. They do tend to be less bitter when they are in season but will always have some of that bitter flavor

      2 Replies
      1. re: cinderella525

        But not that bitter! Seasonal means after the first frost is the best time to pick the greens, the smaller leaves are better and more tender.
        I never heard of cooking longer helping with the bitterness; you just have more tender greens or overcooked greens .
        Cracker Barrel or country cooking serve pepper sauce consisting of small hot peppers pickled in vinegar to put on the greens so I guess vinegar or an acid helps with the bitterness. There is nothing wrong with adding a spoon of sugar or to taste--At any time in the cooking process, even the end. It definitely takes care of the bitterness.
        Mustard greens have a stronger flavor than turnip greens but not an unpleasant bitterness. It's okay to cook them together. Both cooked down much more than collard greens.

        1. re: suecc2746

          Turnip greens have , to my tastebuds, an unpleasant radish/mustard green "bite" (not necessarily bitterness, but some might call it that) if not well-cooked. If thoroughly boiled, like 10 minutes, they lose that completely and taste like spinach.

      2. I would not have put spinach into that mix. Also they all need slightly different cooking times. When I do mixed greens I put a ham hock in a large pot and a chopped onion. I also like to add a couple of ancho chilis, a chipotle anda can of chopped tomatoes and some water. Then my collards, with the tough rib removed, chopped go into the pot. They cook about 30-45 mins. and then the mustard goes in and in another 30 minutes the turnip greens. The whole thing will cook about 3 hours or so.

        I don't find mustard bitter but kind of having a spicy bite, it is good raw in salads. The collards and turnip greens have a more cabbagy flavor to me but it might have been the turnip greens since soome people find turnips to be a bit bitter too.

        I have bought those bagged pre-washed greens(not mixed) but prefer to buy them bulk the companies selling the bagged stuff just chop them up tough stems and all and then I have to go through them and pick all of that stuff out. Not a time saver at all.

        1. You just need to cook them longer. Most greens need to simmer at least 20 minutes, preferably a half hour to get rid of beiiterness. Then they're wonderful. Especially if you simmer covered in chicken broth with a teaspoon of sugar, a pinch of red pep flakes, a small minced onion, 2 smashed cloves of garlic, and 2 teaspoons of apple cider, or white, vinegar. A ham hock or smoked turkey parts are always a great addition, but you need to simmer them by themselves for about a half hour before adding the greens for the second half hour. Then serve with the broth over white rice (and how about a corn muffin?)

          2 Replies
          1. re: Niki Rothman

            They are quite bitter still after simmering for 30 minutes, maybe 35.

            1. re: Sasha

              Continue to simmer. At an hour, you've probably gotten whatever it is you're gonna get.
              It may be that they weren't fresh. Sometimes when I attempt to cook green veg that have been sitting in my fridge like a week, they just taste awful and I throw them out without ever serving them. Also, somebody said mustard greens can stay bitter - I've never experienced that. In fact, I've often adored the lightly cooked mustard greens that Chinese restaurants serve. Chard and collards are always mellow when well cooked - maybe in the future, stick with them. And of course, spinach is only ever cooked until barely wilted for the best flavor.

          2. I cook these TJ's greens all the time in water, and usually for at least 20 minutes or longer. I agree with the other poster who suggested longer cooking time -- that should reduce/eliminate bitterness, though with this particular mix of greens by that point I find that the spinach has pretty much disintegrated.