A Traditional Southern New Year’s Eve Dinner
By Cindy Adams
Many cultures and countries have particular “lucky” foods, and us Florida Southerners are no exception. Greens, pork, and cornbread, as well as black-eyed peas are some of the typical symbolic foods served on New Year’s Day. When planning your menu, add these Southern foods that some say bring good luck and avoid those that may do just the opposite in the new year. Here’s to eating your way into 2023!
What to Eat on New Year’s Day
According to popular folklore, if these foods are eaten on New Year’s Day, you’re guaranteed good luck throughout the year. Peas and beans symbolize coins or wealth. Choose traditional black-eyed peas, lentils, or beans to make a dish seasoned with pork, ham, or sausage.
Greens resemble money, specifically folding money. Make dishes using green, leafy vegetables to ensure good fortune for the coming year. Southern favorites include mustard greens, turnip greens, collard greens or boiled cabbage.
Pork is considered a sign of prosperity in some cultures because pigs root forward. This is probably the reason many Southern New Year’s Day dishes contain pork or ham.
Cornbread might symbolize gold because corn kernels represent coins. Yet, cornbread is also essential with black-eyed peas and greens, so you can triple your luck with these natural complements.
In other cultures, fish, grapes, and ring-shaped cakes or doughnuts symbolize luck. Cakes with special treats inside do as well, so something like a surprise loaf cake is perfect.
New Year’s Day Menu Suggestions
The perfect New Year’s Day menu includes easily seasoned mustard greens, spicy black-eyed peas (Hoppin’ John), hot cooked rice, skillet cornbread and a old fashioned carrot cake. Enjoy my favorite recipes!
Spicy Southern Black-Eyed Peas
These Southern black-eyed peas are a traditional New Year’s Day dish, also known as Hoppin’ John. Salt pork, hog jowl, or ham hocks flavor this tasty dish of black-eyed peas.
1 pound fresh or dried black- eyed peas
4 ounces salt pork
1 large onion
3 to 4 cloves garlic
8 ounces ham
2 stalks celery
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 green bell pepper
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning or a seasoning salt blend
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
Using fresh water, rinse the peas and pick them over, removing any damaged peas or small stones. Put them in a large Dutch oven and cover with water to a depth of about 3 inches above the peas. Cover the pan.
If using dried, follow package directions; soak the black-eyed peas overnight or boil for 2 minutes and then let them stand for 1 hour. Drain the peas.
Remove the rind from the salt pork or other fatty pork and cut it into 1/2-inch dice. Thick bacon, side meat, and streak o’lean are some good alternatives to salt pork.
Peel the onion, chop it finely and mince the garlic.
Place a heavy skillet over medium heat and sauté the diced salt pork with the onion until onion is lightly browned.
Add the garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute longer. Meanwhile, dice the ham, celery, and the red and green bell peppers, if using.
Transfer the sautéed salt pork, onions, and garlic to the pot with the drained peas. Add the diced ham, celery, the red and green bell pepper (if using), and the Cajun seasoning blend. Add water or unsalted chicken stock to just cover the peas (about 4 to 5 cups).
Simmer the peas uncovered for about 1 hour, or until the peas and vegetables are tender. Check the peas occasionally and add a little more water if necessary. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and hot pepper, as desired.
About 20 minutes before the peas are ready, cook the rice following the package directions. Keep the rice warm until serving time.