Bless your heart. How about trying the recipe once as it's written and then doing your own variations? The sugar is to mask any bitterness, which the leaves can often produce. Leaving the ham hocks in during the entire cooking process thoroughly imparts the ham flavor to the beans.This can ONLY be accomplished by cooking them together for a long time.Frankly, I would not boil the ham hocks so long. I'd actually fry them a bit to render a little grease, and then put everything together and slow cook together for a couple of hours.
Mixed review.The sugar seems an unecessary addition. While the final outcome was tasty, the recipe directions seemed to be missing a few steps. After the ham hocks cooked for 2 hours, I removed them from the braise, removed the meat, and -- to avoid overkooking the meat -- returned it to the greens towards the last fifteen minutes of cooking. Season to taste.
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