… to start your New Year off right!
So, did January First with all the bells and whistles, dropping spheres and stunning pyrotechnics slip past you? Did the hours in the day shrink as the demands on your calendar went berserk?
Never fear. Fortunately, there is such a thing as a Legal Holiday – so you have options.
January 2nd is not only a legal holiday, but this year it is the one and only day when you can watch the Tournament of Roses Parade since it was decreed wayyy back in 1893 that no such parade would ever take place on a Sunday.
(It’s true – – https://www.pasadenaweekly.com/2016/12/29/never-on-sunday/ )
Well, if a parade the size of the Rose Parade can celebrate the new year a full 24 hours after the actual change – give or take a second – then who is to say that you can’t cook up those collards, ham hocks and blackeyed peas any day you choose this first week – or month – of 2017?
Yup – that is this week’s recipe, and if I say so myself, it’s pretty good stuff! No, not as delicious as some of those bowls overflowing with steaming perfection from the kitchens of Southern cooks I have had the pleasure to share a table with, but pretty tasty in its own way.
And I have to warn you – I added some of this, and left out some of that as I went along. I know, I know. Sacrilege. Danger. Indigestion.
But truth be told, every cook, no matter from whence they hail, tweaks and messes about with perfectly wonderful traditions, if only for lack of proper ingredients, or because a lot of the fun of cooking comes from experimentation and luck. Lots of luck, sometimes.
Well, here you have it – this year’s recipe for starting the New Year off right – on whatever day you opt to mark the occasion!
Ham Hocks and Blackeyed Peas
1 bag dried Blackeyed Peas
Onion – 1 medium, chopped
Carrot – 1 or 2 depending upon size, sliced
Celery – 1 stalk, sliced
Salt, Pepper, Mrs. Dash, or other herbs/seasonings to taste
Boil about 3 quarts of water. Carefully inspect and rinse the blackeyed peas, being sure to remove any small pebbles or debris. Dump peas into a stock pot or large pan and cover with boiling water. Let sit in boiling/very hot water for 2+ hours to pre-soak. They can be soaked overnight, if more convenient.
Place smoked ham hock, jowl, shank (a good chunk of tasty pork-something), into a crockpot. Drain the blackeyed peas and dump into the crockpot, on top of the pork. Pour fresh water – boiling or tepid – into crockpot, enough to generously cover the contents. Add chopped and sliced veggies, stir once or twice.
Cook on Low for 8-10 hours, until blackeyed peas are cooked and the liquid is a lovely rust or brown color. Add seasonings late in the process after tasting the ‘pot likker’ to determine what it might need. Some ham hocks and jowls are so flavorful, you won’t need to add anything. Sometimes it just needs a little pinch of this or a handful of that.
While that’s cooking, you can make the
Collard Greens and Ham Hocks
1 bunch – or more – Collard Greens, although any green will work. If you prefer turnip, beet, kale or spinach, that’s great. Just make sure they are green in keeping with the idea behind the tradition.
1 Ham Hock – again, feel free to use the pork item of your choice
Salt, Pepper, etc. – to taste
The most time consuming part of this process is cleaning the collard greens, but it is also the most important part. I begin by pulling the leafy part of the greens from the stem. That stem can be woody, tough and bitter, so don’t bother with cleaning or cooking it. This is a good time to inspect the leaves for too many buggy bites, or wilted edges. Collards are pretty tasty even in the field, so look at the number of holes as a sign of good flavor!
After the leaves are ready, I use a large pot, fill it with fresh, cold water, shove all of the leaves into it and add a bunch of salt. Then I act as if I am washing socks – push, swirl, move, lift, shove, stir. After a few minutes of this, I dump the water, and repeat the rinsing – leaving out the salt – no less than three times, feeling for grit or sand with my fingers. If need be, I will rinse each good sized leaf individually.
Then – if I remember to do this step – slice or chop each leaf. The easiest way to do this is to simply layer the leaves one on top of another, roll them up, as if you were making a very green wrap, and slice the small end. As you can see in the photo above, I skipped the slicing part – or tearing or chopping, whatever you prefer – and cooked up big leaves. No matter – they tasted just fine!
Toss the slices into a stock pot, add the ham hock, jowl, whatever you’ve chosen as your pork delight, and pour in plenty of fresh, cool water. You will need a generous amount of water since those collards will float to the top of the pot, but will cook down into something amazing over the course of 6-8 hours.
Bring the concoction to a boil, and boil for about an hour, although I used so few collards, that I turned my pot down after 30 minutes or so. Most of this kind of cooking is by gut, by feel, so do what you think is right and you’ll be fine. Simmer the pot for as many hours as is necessary to turn the collards soft and the meat to fall off the ham bone. Stir it a few times during the process, but don’t baby it.
You can add salt, pepper, seasonings – even bacon grease or chopped crispy bacon to the pot.
When it’s finally done, serve the collards with the blackeyed peas and don’t forget the piping hot cornbread with lots of butter …
and the South Carolina strawberry and freshly made whipped cream tartlets for dessert!
Please visit Creatzart and DiscoveringHome to see some of the places the recipes on Sinclaire Monroe’s Kitchen come from or have been inspired by – and please consider participating in Jane’s Day of Service on February 28th this year.
Thank you for reading and following and sharing. I wish each of you a healthy, safe, and wonderful New Year.