In the south, traditions are long-standing, loved and rarely veered from. That goes for everything from actions, events and yes, even food. I was recently asked by an online friend and favorite customer about recipes for black eyed peas since she had heard that you should eat them on New Year’s Day for good luck. I told her that according to legend, on New Year’s Day, one should eat black eyed peas seasoned with hog jowl or ham hocks for luck along with a mess of cooked greens for prosperity. This, of course, is an old wive’s tale but it’s also a southern tradition that goes back a long way…way before my time.
While I don’t believe in these types of old wive’s tales, I do love a good excuse to indulge in a pot of southern black eyed peas. The greens…not so much since I don’t care for greens. But I can cook ’em well enough to make you want seconds. I promised my friend that I would share my recipe for a traditional southern New Year’s Day meal. Some may call it soul food. I just call it southern.
SOUTHERN BLACK EYED PEAS
- 2 lbs. dried black-eyed peas
- 2 small-medium ham hocks or hog jowls (salt cured or smoked)
- 2 tablespoon bacon grease or shortening (beans and peas need fat to help thicken the soup)
- water to cover and bring all to a boil
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Sift through dried peas, removing any rocks, debris and bad peas.
- Using a colander or strainer, rinse peas well with clean water.
- Transfer dried peas to a large pot.
- Add enough water to cover about 1-2″ above the peas.
- Score skin side of ham hock if needed and add to pot.
- Add the bacon grease or shortening.
NOTE: I do not soak my dried beans and peas prior to cooking.
- Bring the pot to a boil and allow to cook at a rapid boil uncovered for the first 20 minutes or so.
- Turn down to a medium to high simmer/ cover, adding water to keep peas covered.
- Take a taste of the soup liquid about 1 hour in and add salt as needed.
- Continue cooking until peas are tender and soup has thickened to desired consistency. *Add water as needed throughout the cooking, stirring often.
- Add pepper is desired.
- Serve like soup with fresh, hot cornbread.
- Also good served with freshly cooked greens (see recipe below), pickled hot peppers, green onions, chow chow.
SLOW COOKED GREENS
- 1 small smoked ham hock or cubed hog jowl (salt cured or smoked)
- 4 -6 slices thick bacon (optional)
- 2-3 bunches fresh collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens or mixture
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons granulated or brown sugar (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Water to cover
- Hand wash and rinse greens thoroughly in cold water to remove all grit and dirt. Remove any thick stems. Tear or chop leaves into manageable sized pieces or leave whole.
- Cook bacon in a skillet until the fat renders and bacon becomes translucent.
- Place bacon, with its drippings, into the bottom of the crock pot. Add the greens, ham hock or hog jowl, salt, pepper, sugar and water into crock pot. Greens will float but will soon wilt into the water.
- Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
- If using ham hock, remove from rock pot, Remove and discard skin and any bone. Shred meat and return it to crock pot.
- Serve with hot cornbread to sop up the pot likker.
Enjoy this traditional Southern New Year’s Day food fare. And please, let me know how much you love or hate it once you try it.