If you’re a Southerner by birth, you may already be familiar with the tradition of eating Black Eyed Peas and Greens on New Year’s Day. It’s been the food d’choice of Southerners since the Civil War days. According to folklore, when Union soldiers plundered Confederate food supplies, they left them peas and pork, believing it was food for animals. The grateful soldiers relied on the supplies to get them through the remainder of the war days, and to commemorate the event, continued to eat it on New Year’s Day. But the tradition spans back even further, to at least 1,500 years ago, when it is mentioned in the Talmud as a customary menu item to ring in the Jewish New Year. Greens joined the fray because they share the same color as money, thus symbolizing luck. Whatever it’s origins, it’s a healthy, hearty, and satisfying dish. Enjoy it with golden cornbread.
1/2 pound dried black-eyed peas (soaked overnight)
6 slices of bacon chopped
1 large onion chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 pound smoked ham hocks
1.5 teaspoons dried thyme or 2 tbs fresh, washed and chopped finely
1 bay leaf
6 cups chicken or beef broth
1 bunch of collards, turnip greens or other greens or a mixture, washed and coarsely chopped with ribs removed.
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, cook the bacon over medium-low heat until brown, about 4 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Drain and rinse the peas; add to the pot along with the ham hocks, herbs, and stock. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the greens to the pot, return to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered until the peas and greens are tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot in shallow bowls.