This morning, I awoke with thoughts of New Years Days past that brought back great memories of my childhood holidays--my sweet mother always had a brilliant buffet of comforting foods; dishes I think mostly of southern origin, made for traditions of old, evoking love, luck, health and prosperity for the coming New Year. Dishes like Black-eyed pea soup made with smokey ham hocks, mixed greens with bacon and seasonings only a southerner could have conjured up. Sliced country ham with brown sugar, mustard and honey glaze, skillet cornbread, potato and macaroni salad and always mashed or boiled potatoes in their "jackets". Yes, two potatoes. But in the south, potato salad, like gravy, is a food group all to it's self. Deserts were always Mama's old fashioned fudge, chocolate rice pudding and pineapple upside down cake. Only my brother Steve's favorite cake ever!
My sister loves black-eyed peas so much that she once told her class that we had them for Thanksgiving Dinner! Although she wanted it to be, it was not true. I however, was never big on the musky tasting legumes, but I ate it just the same. I'm not sure about the luck part, but it was embedded in my mind that if I didn't... Anyway, I've since given the recipe a little kick and if I do say so myself, I love it! Maybe another food group? I also added a little Bourbon to the ham glaze equation. I like this too and so would my Uncles ;). And the greens and potato salad... well you can't improve on perfection.
This morning I immediately went to the kitchen and began to gather my ingredients to make a pot of black-eyed pea soup. I wondered why I had let so many years slip by without making some of Mom's wonderful recipes for good fortune on this day. I decided this year was going to be different! I hope you enjoy this recipe with your family and take the opportunity to remember your own traditions as well.
Happy New Year!
Black Eyed Peas
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 large white onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
¼ cup carrots, diced small
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 pickled jalapenos, minced with 1 tablespoon juice
3 ham hocks, rinsed
1 pound black-eyed peas, rinsed and cleaned
3 quarts chicken stock
2 to 3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large can diced tomatoes
*Additional broth or water
In a heavy bottom pot or Dutch oven, add bacon and fry on medium high heat to render fat. Yes fat! "What doesn't kill ya, will cure ya". Add the onions, bell peppers, celery and carrots to the pan and cook until tender. Add the garlic and jalapeno and juice. Cook another 2 minutes. Add the ham hocks, chicken broth, black eyed peas and all herbs and spices. Stir and bring to a boil, then cover and cook on medium low for about 3 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. When peas are almost done, add tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of sugar to take out any bitters (Okay, this is what Mama and Grand always said!) so just do it and stir well.
*As the peas cook down, you may need to add additional broth or water to the pot if liquid levels get too low. Add as much as you think the pot needs. You might need to do this a couple of times during the cooking process.
Serve with sourcream and cornbread muffins.