Thursday, December 30, 2010

Black Eyed Peas, Hog Jowl and Collard Greens

An old southern tradition of eating a meal of black eyed peas slowly simmered and seasoned with hog jowl with a side dish of collard greens is a means to bringing good luck to the family for the entire coming year.

In days long past the cook would prepare dried black eyed peas out of the family garden and grown the summer before. In days long past the family butchered a hog with the onset of cold weather. The hog was salted and packed in its own processed lard in a large barrel and kept in the dirt root cellar. From this barrel, the cook retrieved a salted hog jowl. In addition, in days long past, we picked the collard greens fresh out of the winter garden as needed. There was no need to go to the grocery store.

On New Years Eve, get the dried black eyed peas out. Give them one last look for dirt clods and vine debris, place them in a colander and wash in lots of cold running water. (Each pound of dried peas will require 8 quarts of cold water for the over night soak.)
In the morning pour off the soaking water and replace with the same amount of fresh water.

Cut the salted pork that you purchased at the grocery story into 1” thick strips 2 or 3 inches long and place in the pot with the peas. Cut up a small onion and place the onion in the pot along with liquid Tabasco pepper seasoning or black pepper to taste. (Remember you can always add more hot seasoning for individual flavor preference; but you cannot take the hot out of the pot so be careful.)

Your pot of black eyed peas will want to sit on the stove top over low heat and ever so slowly simmer for 8 to 10 hours. Add a fresh sprig of Thyme to the pot in the last hour of cooking.

Collard Greens, a winter crop of leafy green vegetable, is a southern staple; or was in days long past. It is more fibrous and has a stronger, more peppery taste than other greens like Polk Salet or Spinach. It needs a strong salty seasoning like salted pork and it needs to cook slowly with a little boiling water until reduced in total mass.

I use a large, very large heavy aluminum skillet to cook my collards. Let’s take the two bunches of fresh Collard Greens we purchased at the grocery story and fill the skillet full and mound the collards up, add a little water, maybe a cup, maybe more as needed; place a lid on your skillet of greens seasoned with bits of salted pork and cook until they reduce in volume.
(They will cook down by steaming. not by being submerged in water and boiled)

After the water has been allowed to boil out of the collards, add a little bacon fat to the skillet, turn the heat up high and fry the greens for a couple of minutes. The greens require slow cooking over low heat for up to hour to break down the fibers.

I like to round out this Good Luck Dinner with buttermilk cornbread and ice-cold milk.

My buttermilk cornbread recipe is given in an earlier post, titled The Best Non-Traditional Holiday Day Dinner.

In days long past, before processed breakfast cereal was readily available, it was a common occurrence to enjoy a bowl of cornbread (left over from last night’s dinner or baked fresh in the morning) drenched in milk and sweetened with honey or molasses for breakfast.

Shebolith Says…Good Luck in the upcoming New Year… just like in days long past!

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