Our family traditions spill directly into the New Year. I'm just now realizing how comforting a lifetime of traditions can be. They are the glue for our widespread family. Even when circumstances keep us apart geographically, we know the drill. Some traditions are our own, some we share because of our Southern Heritage, and some we have picked up from new family and friends. No matter whether they're old or new, our traditions, along with lots of love, hold our family together.
For many, the New Year signals a rededication to healthy eating and living. We don't restrict our health consciousness to January. You can do that anytime of year—any day is good.
But we do begin the New Year with a traditional meal of collard greens, black eyes peas and ham, signifying money, luck and good health. I personally can't imagine not having this meal on January 1st. I've changed it up a little, with Collard Greens and Ham Soup garnished by my version of Hoppin' John: black eyed peas combined with chow-chow. Add cornbread, cooked in my grandmother's old black cast iron skillet, and you have our traditional New Year's Day meal. It's OK if you don't eat it on January 1st. As long as you consume during the month of January, you're giving yourself the chance for a year filled with prosperity, luck and good health.
New Year's Collard Greens and Country Ham Soup with Black Eyed Pea Chowchow
Having the 'pot likker (vitamin rich broth from cooking greens)' in the soup is a little like 'having your cake and eating it, too'. The pot likker was my grandmother's favorite part of a pot of greens.
1 T canola oil
1 sweet onion, diced
~10 oz. Country Ham trimmings (more lean than fat)
1 lb. Trimmed Winter Collard Greens (center stem removed, rolled and cut into strips)
One teaspoon tabasco, or more to taste
6 cups water
Salt to taste
1 tsp. Black pepper
pinch of Sugar
2 cups cooked white rice
2 cups cooked black eyed pea chowchow* for garnish
Add canola oil to large soup pot over medium heat. Saute onions with ham until onions are soft and translucent. Add collards, stirring to coat and wilt down. Add tabasco, water, salt, pepper and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, cover pot with lid slightly ajar, and cook for about 2 hours.
Check seasoning, add cooked rice and serve with Black Eyed Pea Chowchow and cornbread.
*Black Eyed Pea Chowchow
1 tsp. Canola oil
2 strips bacon, diced
One-half sweet onion, diced
2 cups frozen black eyed peas
One and one-half cups water
1 tsp. Salt
One-half cup chowchow
Add canola oil to medium sized pot over medium heat. Add diced pieces of bacon and cook until beginning to brown, stirring occasionally. Add diced onion, and continue to cook until onions are soft and translucent. Now, add the black eyed peas and stir to coat with bacon drippings, then add water and salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover with lid ajar to simmer and cook until peas are tender, about 40 minutes.
Drain peas, onion and bacon (you can add the remaining cooking liquid to your Collard and Ham Soup.)
Combine pea mixture with chowchow and serve as a garnish to soup.
(The buttermilk makes this a nice, moist cornbread.)
3 cups self-rising stone ground corn meal (ie House Autry Self-Rising Cornmeal)
1 T sugar
Pinch of salt
2 T canola oil
2 cups buttermilk
3 T butter for pan
Preheat oven to 425º. Add butter to 10 inch iron skillet and preheat in oven.
Stir cornmeal, sugar and salt together. Beat eggs and oil and add to cornmeal. Add buttermilk, stirring with a fork to mix well. Pour into hot skillet and bake for about 25 minutes, until top is beginning to brown.