Thursday, January 2, 2014

Starting Out the New Year Right!

It's a southern tradition that eating Black Eyed Peas on New Year's Day will bring luck in the coming year, so I had to give it a try yesterday--a little extra luck can always come in handy!

I remembered the beans and the ham-hocks when I was shopping, but that's about it. And since I was definitely NOT heading to the store again, I pretty much had to improvise with what I had on-hand.

First off, since I didn't soak my peas overnight, I had to use the quick-soak method. To be fair, I was originally planning to put them in the slow-cooker the way my mom does--no soaking required with her method!

Sort through your dry beans first, checking for stones. I've never found any, but they say that's what you're supposed to do, so I just do it quickly. All the peas always look alike to me! Of course, one day I'll skip right past this step and someone will break a tooth. Or maybe I'm just being paranoid...

Dump them in a big pot and cover with an inch or so of water, skimming off any floaters. No one ever told me to do that, I just don't like them there. Or maybe I did hear it somewhere one day--who knows? But I do it just as loyally as I check for stones, I promise.

Cover the pot and bring it to a boil and let it sit there for a couple of minutes, then shut the burner off and leave your pot for an hour. If you forget about them, it's ok. You were supposed to soak them overnight, remember? A little longer won't hurt anything. Here's what mine looked like when I got back to them:

See what a difference that made?

Next, in a different pot, I melted some bacon fat (we keep a jar in the fridge of our drippings every time we make bacon, but you could probably just use butter) and added diced onions from the freezer, and a few cloves of garlic I minced on the spot, stirring it up til the onions got all transparent and yummy.

Don't worry if a few bits get a little brown like my did. Those are just gonna be sweeter :)

Then add in the smoked ham hocks and carrots (mine came from a jar, so they were already pretty soft).

And here's where I realized I still had the peas sitting in their soaking water, so I let the ham and carrots get all happy with my onions for a minute while I pulled out the strainer and dumped out the water, then rinsed off the peas. Without a mess. Messes always happen when you rush. Or is that just me?

I then added the peas into the pot everything else was waiting in:

And I added a quart of home-made turkey stock and a quart of water. If I was using store-bought stuff, I probably would have needed 2 quarts and no water, but my home-made stuff is strong and thick.

...oh yeah--gotta season it a bit too...

I took it easy, I swear! Greg doesn't like it too hot.

Bring it all to a boil...

...then drop it down to a simmer, checking in on it periodically. Try not to get too caught up in the bowl games--remember, this is your luck you're making!

After an hour or so, go fishing and pull out the ham hocks. Cut all the meat off the bones, and into bite-size pieces:

Then mix the ham back into your beans. I turned down the heat to fish out the ham, so I had to turn it back up again.

And now for our sides. Tradition says you should eat collard greens and cornbread with your black eyed peas. They represent the cash and gold you want to come your way in the coming year. I may have cheated a bit here...that still counts, right?

Greg absolutely swears by Glory Greens. I'd never tried them before. I'd also never made collard greens from scratch before, so I also grabbed the super-easy steam-in-a-bag version from the fresh section of Walmart. Which turned out to be a good thing since apparently I grabbed the wrong can of greens. Who knew there were no collards in mixed greens? Oops!

The beans will just get happier, the longer they cook, and I haven't started the cornbread yet. The box says it takes 15-20 minutes. I just followed instructions on all the packages.

OK, quite possibly I let my beans cook to long. To me they were perfect, but my mom's version winds up being more like soup. But like I said, she uses the slow cooker, so maybe that has something to do with it.

And it's serving time!

It was delicious, and I made sure to eat plenty of it all. Hopefully the traditions run true for us this year!


Here's a more traditional format for my Black Eyed Pea recipe:


1 lb dried black eyed peas
1 tbsp bacon fat
1 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 lb smoked ham hocks (approximately)
1 cup carrots, diced
1 quart turkey broth + 1 quart water
2 tbsp Tony Chacheree's Original Creole Seasoning
1 tsp Crystal Hot Sauce


-Sort & quick soak dried black eyed peas by covering with an inch of water and bringing to a boil for 2 min, then letting sit for an hour.

-Melt bacon fat, then add onions & garlic until translucent. Then add pork hocks & carrots. Drain peas and add to pot, then the broth, water, and seasonings.

-Bring to a boil, then drop to a simmer for about an hour, stirring frequently.

-Pull out ham hocks and remove bones, dicing meat before adding it back in.

-Simmer for about 20 more minutes, again stirring frequently, then serve with corn bread and collard greens.