Is your house clean?
Well, mine is. Yesterday, New Years Eve, I made sure I had it clean and that our laundry was done too – otherwise we’d be living in squalor amongst piles of dirty clothes all year!
I know because my mom told me so, yep she raised me right.
She also told me about black-eyed peas and collard greens. Guess what we had for dinner last night and what we’ll be eating again today… with a side of cornbread, of course! I think mom wanted to make sure we were covered by eating these on New Year’s Eve, kind of like having money in the bank or insurance. In any case, now I know 2011 will be filled with prosperity and good luck, it’s ensured by the eating o’ the greens (green=money) and those lucky black-eyed peas.
I went in search of some official looking back-up for these Southern traditions (mom is from Pensacola, Florida) and here’s what I found at Wikipedia:
- Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity.
- In the Southern United States, the peas are typically cooked with a pork product for flavoring (such as bacon, ham bones, fatback, or hog jowl), diced onion, and served with a hot chili sauce or a pepper-flavored vinegar.
- The traditional meal also features collard, turnip, or mustard greens, and ham. The peas, since they swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represents positive motion. Cornbread also often accompanies this meal.
I read too that there are some minor variations as well including things like each family member must eat 365 black eyed peas or risk bad luck on one, some, or all days of the year not covered by a New Years black eyed pea. Most often, and fortunately for those who do not like legumes, most families call it good if even one black eyed pea is consumed before the end of the first day of the year.
RECIPES TO START THE NEW YEAR OUT WITH PROSPERITY AND LUCK:
- Collard greens are a leafy green vegetable similar to spinach.
- It’s considered a cabbage and resembles kale.
- Collard greens and kale were grown in ancient Greece and Rome.
- They are cheap and easy to grow.
(not so) Secret Recipe
Here’s how I make ‘em!
- Smoked ham hocks, bacon, ham… about 1/2 pound – it’s for taste
- 3 lbs. collard greens
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- Chicken broth and/or water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Wash the greens well, even the pre-washed ones. Rip or roughly chop the greens. Discard the heaviest stems, but don’t be picky. As the collards cook they will wilt down.
- Put the greens, meat and onion in a large soup pot just cover with your liquid of choice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 3 hours, replacing liquid as needed allowing water level to reduce a little at a time until the liquid thickens up. You want “juice” to soak up with your corn bread. No surprise to me, in our family this is called “LIQUOR”…
- Season with the salt and pepper. Then cover and simmer, stirring occasionally on low to medium heat until the greens are tender.
Serve with cornbread!
Basic Southern Black Eyed Pea Recipe
- Around 3 cups of dried black eyed peas (sold in bags like pinto beans at the grocery store)
- A big pot of water for rehydrating
- Smoked ham hocks, bacon, ham… about 1/2 pound – it’s for taste
- Water for cooking
- Hot sauce like Louisiana Hot Sauce or Frank’s Hot Sauce (4-8 splashes is good for a kick)
- An onion (optional)
- Wash your dried peas well.
- In a large stock pot, put the dried black eyed peas with cold water overnight to rehydrate. Black eyed peas will basically double in size to give a ballpark idea of the size pot needed.
- When ready to make black eyed peas the next day, pour off cold water. It is said this helps take the gas out of the beans, but you can’t prove that by me…
- Put the meat, onion and the black eyed peas in the pot with the water. Beans should have a half inch or so of water above them as the water evaporates as they simmer. Add more water if needed.
- Splash in hot sauce if desired.
- Drop the heat down a little to a medium simmer.
- Let black eyed peas simmer along for an hour or so or until tender. Black eyed peas should be soft but not splitting open. The amount of time can vary with the stove and temperature. Black eyed peas are a good bac
k burner dish as Southerners cook other parts of a meal.
Second Day Black Eyed Peas are Favorites for Some
Black eyed peas are good warmed over and have a thicker sauce the next day. The first day, black eyed peas are usually watery as far as the liquid (some serve them with slotted spoon), unless some of the black eyed peas are mashed in to act as a thickening agent. Some Southerners prefer the thinner sauce while others like it thick.
1st day or 2nd – Serve with cornbread!
The key to making good Southern Cornbread is in the pan. It has to be cast iron and it has to be HOT! While you can make it in a baking pan or dish, it’s just not going to taste the same as made in a cast iron skillet. Something about that good old cast iron pan is the key. It heats evenly, gets super hot and allows for enough air circulation so that the cornbread gets that crispy, crunchy crust which is the signature of Southern Cornbread. (BONUS: the acquired iron in the cornbread makes your blood stronger!)
To make Southern Cornbread you’ll need:
- 1 cup regular cornmeal (yellow is better)
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose white flour
- 2 Teaspoons baking powder
- 1/8 to 1/4 cup of sugar (we like much less)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup of vegetable oil (or bacon grease)
- 1 cup milk
- 2 Tablespoons of oil in the pan rolled around to distribute it evenly.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (my mom says 500 but David just won’t go that high). You can go ahead and put the oil in the pan and stick that in the oven to heat while making the batter. Measure out the dry ingredients and mix them. In a mixing bowl, beat the liquids a bit. Now, add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and stir. At this point, you don’t want to stir a whole lot, or the bread will be tough. Just stir with a spoon or fork until the cornmeal lumps are broken up and mixed in.
The pan should be ready at this time – remember, it must be HOT. Take the pan out, pour in the batter (it should sizzle and hiss) and quickly roll it around carefully to spread the batter pretty evenly.
Stick the pan back in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.
To eat properly:
While still hot: Cut into wedges, slice one down the tender, internal middle and slather butter on it top and bottom. I put about 3 tablespoons from one end to the other and close it up so it melts. 1st bite or two, just cornbread. After that dunk in the bean and green liqueurs and make rapturous nummmmmy noises.
We use the 12-inch cast iron skillet for this recipe as we like it thinner and crunchy. If the pan is smaller, you may want to cut the ingredients down. If you’re using a bigger skillet, then that’s fine, but you’ll want to cook for a shorter time as the bread is not as thick.
This recipe is also good for muffins or for breadsticks. Both shapes also come in cast iron versions.
You can add hot peppers, cracklings, cheese, or diced onions to the batter, but we like it best plain and simple without any extras.
Now quick, clean your house, cook these up and have a prosperous and lucky 2011!