Cabbage, black-eyed peas, and hog jowl are the traditional food of the New Year, ostensibly because these foods represent money, prosperity, and richness. My honest opinion has always been that we eat these simple, earthy foods on New Year’s Day because we’re still recovering from our indulgences in rich food and drink throughout the Christmas season. Whatever the reason, it’s a delicious tradition, and one worth keeping even apart from superstition. To keep our luck up in the new year, we’re making black-eyed peas with hog jowl and peppers and a white-wine braised cabbage (along with a pan of skillet cornbread).
This is truly the simplest recipe to make. If you can find good frozen peas, then you’re already ahead – we get ours from a local co-op that has fresh picked and frozen products. Of course, your local supermarket has a wide variety of canned and frozen black-eyed peas, but most of them lack good flavor and texture – if you can’t get a good frozen product, use dried.
If using dried peas, you must soak them first in order to get them ready to go. My favorite method is to cover the peas with cold water (the water should be about an inch above the peas) and soak overnight in the fridge. An alternate method (which is quicker) is to bring your peas to a boil for two minutes and then let them soak in the hot water for an hour. With both methods, discard the water you’ve soaked your peas in before cooking.
Cooking the peas like we do is simple: cover them with a good two inches of water in a large stock pot and add 3-4 slices of hog jowl, salt to taste, and two jalapeno peppers. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce and simmer until peas are tender but not mushy. Peas cooked this way produce a wonderful pot-liquor, so reserve the liquid for drizzling over cornbread.
To make our white wine braised cabbage, you’ll need the following things:
- One head green cabbage, cored and sliced into ribbons.
- 2-4 cloves garlic, chopped.
- 4-5 tablespoons butter.
- 2/3 cup dry white wine.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Melt butter in a pot large enough to hold the cabbage. When the butter is hot (but not brown), add the garlic and cook over medium heat until golden brown. Add the cabbage, stirring to coat evenly in the butter. Cook until the cabbage starts turning clear and is just beginning to brown. Add the wine and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle a bit of Gruyere cheese over the top and salt and pepper to taste.
The best thing about all this food is that it all gets better the second day. This is something good to make a day or so in advance to allow folks to heat what they want as they’d like – perfect for the aftermath of New Year’s parties (or any cold winter’s day for that matter). Happy New Year, and Enjoy!