Holy Grail: Pickles & Bones Barbecue's braised collard greens taste just as good as Mama's
Joanne Drilling | WCPO contributor
8:00 AM, Jun 19, 2018
Holy grail -- For some of us it conjures a much younger Harrison Ford looking excessively fetching in khaki. For others, the reference is a bit more biblical. But for our dining purposes we'll stick with the pop-cultural connotation. In this case it's a bite or a beverage that you just can't imagine living without, or at least not chatting it up to all your friends.
“It’s a craft, a labor of love,” explained Nicole House, co-owner of Pickles & Bones Barbecue in Milford, in reference to their from-scratch culinary ethos.
House and her husband, Josh, both chefs with plenty of fine dining experience, started their barbecue business out of a tiny trailer in August 2015. And while the Houses quickly developed a following for their crave-worthy wood-smoked pork shoulder, brisket and turkey breasts, it’s their vinegar-braised collard greens that are my personal dark horse favorite. The Houses’ blend is a 2:1:1 ratio of collard, turnip and curly kale greens.
“We start with a remiage stock of smoked ham bones for gelatin and body and shanks for flavor. We eventually add the pulled meat back in. By the time the stock is cooled, I can cut it with a knife. That stock is really the flavor base for our greens,” said Nicole.
For the first few months, the Houses sold their walnut-and-hickory-smoked pork on Sundays only from a little parking lot at the corner of state Route 131 and Wolfpen-Pleasant Hill Road. The reception was strong and by May of 2016, Josh was able to leave his job as the executive chef at the Golden Lamb Inn and Restaurant in Lebanon. Nicole had temporarily left the restaurant business to raise their three daughters.
Nicole, thrilled to be back in a professional kitchen, this time on her own terms, renders onions, chili and garlic with a little vinegar before adding the greens, then the stock. While the greens are simmering, she adds some of the deeply flavorful jus from their smoked brisket and barbecued pork.
“We also add the smoked collar bones from the shoulders that we pull for even more depth of flavor,” she explained.
The greens are then finished with apple cider vinegar.
“The raw vinegar really ties together the fat and the salt in this dish. We serve pickles on the side with our meats because, again, you really need the acidity to bridge the fat, sweet and salt that is such a big part of our food.”
What’s next for Pickles & Bones, especially with summer produce coming into season?
“We have been doing a cobbler with some of my dad’s fresh rhubarb. Strawberry shortcake is next. We use fresh cream biscuits, real whipped cream and macerated strawberries. And we’re also looking forward to making our grilled corn salad with corn from Shaw’s Farm in Milford.”