Story last updated at 1/2/2014 - 2:26 pm
Just about every family has some sort of New Year tradition. It may be watching football, sleeping in after the big party the night before, bloody marys and a nice brunch, or simply a pajama day. In our family the tradition is to eat black-eyed peas and collard greens. It is supposed to promote good fortune and posterity. The peas are for all the cents you'll make in the coming year and the greens are for the dollars you'll make. The problem with this theory is that I loathe collard greens. I've only had them one time when I really liked them and that was when Elizabeth, my friend and co-worker made them for an office party. They were delicious.
But, as a general rule, I prefer to skip the greens component of the tradition. This, I am sure, is why I am not as independently wealthy as say Bill Gates, who is reportedly worth more than 70 billion dollars. I'm thrilled when I find $20 in my pocket on laundry day. I wonder if his maid, or whoever does his laundry, finds the occasional 20 bucks in Mr. Gates pants pockets. I bet it's the occasional $100. I apologize, random thoughts put on paper.
Back to the topic at hand: traditions.
As mentioned above, the best greens I've ever had were made by Elizabeth. I have shared her recipe before, and I shall again, but with a little twist and pairing it with the black-eyed peas. For my Christmas recipe I made my dad's amazing holiday ham. I always use a bone-in picnic ham. Save the bone. Don't give it to the dog; save it for the peas. I just wrapped it in tin foil and stuck it in the freezer.
You want a little meat left on the bone. It is used to season the peas and to offer an extra level of flavor. I also recommend leaving the layer of fat on the bottom of the bone as well. This isn't a starting your year off healthy recipe, it's suppose to be a tradition to foster prosperity. That whole "living off the fat" kind of thing.
If you're in my house, get rid of the bone before you serve the peas, lest you get into a culinary battle about removing every minute scrap of ham off the bone and don't waste one single bite. I'm old school and when I use a ham bone or something similar to act as a seasoning agent for cooking, I tend to remove the bone in its entirety prior to serving. I don't pick the bone clean like a rabid dog. I'm about the flavor, not ensuring I save a three bite portion. Apparently, I'm singular in this belief. Needless to say, do what works best for you and what will keep peace in your home. If you do not have a ham bone, no need to worry. Use a large chunk of salt pork, which can be purchased at any grocery store.
For the greens, my mother has told me you can use whatever you prefer. I ate broccoli for years. Now that I have Elizabeth's delicious technique for making greens, I don't shy away from them as often. For my New Year's Day meal, I used spinach. It cooks faster and tastes great.
My family is about tradition. Food is steeped in tradition and culture. I invite you to reach out to your own family traditions and create dishes that remind you of special moments, people and memories. I wish you a very happy new year and the hope that you will have a joyful and prosperous 2014, regardless of what you eat.
This week, I present a recipe steeped in family tradition and southern culture: Black-eyed peas and greens.
Until next time...
Eat and enjoy,
212 ounce bags frozen peas
1 large hambone or package of salt pork
Salt to taste
Place peas and hambone in slow cooker or stock pot.Add water until peas are covered.Cook on low 2 - 5 hours. The longer they cook, the more flavor will be infused into the broth and peas.Sometimes you may need to add salt.
2 large bunches fresh spinach, washed long stems removed
4 slices thick cut bacon
¼ cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
Dice bacon and place in medium skillet.Cook on medium heat until almost crisp.Add onion and garlic; cook until onions are translucent.Add spinach and cook until reduced in size. Sprinkle with Cajun seasoning.
Serve warm with cornbread and in my house, fried potatoes.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!