Southern New Year


As every good southerner knows, you’re supposed to eat black eyed peas on New Years day. Last year, I was not a good southerner, but I don’t think my year suffered too much from bad luck (although I will never know how lucky I might have been). This year, however, I was a good little southerner and introduced my Michigander husband to this southern tradition.

The recipe is so easy it’s a shame I haven’t made it before. The leftovers were great the next day, which is sure to increase my luck a little bit, or perhaps make up for last year. I altered the recipe a little by salvaging the edible meat from the ham hocks (not an easy or delicate task I assure you) and cutting it into very fine cubes, which I then distributed throughout the finished pea mixture. I’m not sure if it made a huge difference, but it was nice to get a little piece of meat in every bite of good ole’ black eyed peas.

Jay, a non-southerner, even followed suit and made southern cornbread, in a cast-iron pan no less. It was thinner than I’m  used to (i.e. thinner than mom makes) but was very, very good regardless, especially with a smear of melted butter on top. I recommend it, especially considering it comes from the self-proclaimed Best Recipes cookbook.


New Year’s Day Black-Eyed Peas
(adapted from original recipe printed in January 2008 Food & Wine magazine)
Note: I have altered the original recipe by excluding any mention of making your own garlic bread. I also added the park about the ham hocks at the end.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus 1/4 cup olive oil
1 very large onion, finely chopped
1 very large carrot, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced (I think I used more because I LOVE garlic)
1 pound dried black-eyed peas (about 2 1/4 cups), soaked overnight and drained
Two 1-pount smoked ham hocks
2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium broth (i.e. 64 fluid ounces)
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large, enameled cast-iron casserole (NOTE: I just used a large pot), heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot and minced garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the drained black-eyed peas, smoked ham hocks, chicken stock and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce the ehat to very low, cover partially and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Season the beans generously with salt and pepper and let stand for 30 minutes.

Drain the black-eyed peas; remove the ham hocks and set aside; discard the bay leaves. Transfer the black-eyed peas to a serving bowl. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup oil and season with salt and pepper. (NOTE: I skipped this step and my version turned out great. This just sounded like too much oil to me and made the meal unnecessarily unhealthy). Remove the meat from the ham hocks, separating it from the fat, and cut into very small cubes. Stir in the cubed ham into the black-eyed peas. (NOTE: This is an optional step that I added.)

Southern Cornbread
(original recipe printed in The New Best Recipe)

4 teaspoons backon drippings, or 1 teaspoon vegetable pil plus 1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup (about 5 ounces) yellow cornmeal, preferably stone ground (NOTE: it’s interesting that the recipe mentions yellow cornmeal, considering in a lengthy discussion on southern cornbread the book references white cornmeal. We used white cornmeal and it was great, although mom makes it with yellow.)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup rapdily boiling water
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten lightly

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Set an 8-inch cast-iron skillet with the bacon fat in the heating oven.

Measue 1/3 cup of the cornmeal into a medium bowl. Whisk the remaining 2/3 cup cornmeal, the sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in a small bowl; set aside.

Pour the boiling water all at once into the 1/3 cup cornmeal; stir to make a stiff mush. Whisk in the buttermilk gradually, beaking up lumps, until smooth, then whisk in the egg. When the oven is preheated and the skillet is very hot, stir the dry ingredients into the mush mixture until just moistened. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven. Pour the hot bacon fat from the pan into the batter and stir to incorporate, then quickly pour the batter into the heated skillet. Bake until the bread is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and instantly turn the cornbread onto a wire rack; cook for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.



2 Responses to “Southern New Year”

  1. 1 thatruth2006 January 3, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Great stuff. I have a blog where I discuss food and cooking.

    Check it out at:


  2. 2 WC January 3, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Had our cornbread, greens black eyed peas, pork tenderloin and sweet tea. No better way to ring in the New Year. Thanks for posting the recipes for all those “yankees” that don’t what good eating is.

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January 2008
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All posts and images copyright 2008 & 2009 Jenny Robertson, unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved. Any use of images without prior written consent is prohibited.
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