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Traditional New Years Fare

All holidays have their traditions, and New Years is no exception.  This next recipe has its roots in the African/Caribbean heritage and is primarily a Southern tradition. It is said that Carolina slaves popularized the rice and bean dish that is flavored with ham hocks or a bit of bacon.  Cow peas or black-eyed peas are traditional for this dish, as the peas represent coins and are symbolic for wealth. Pork is traditionally used because pigs push forward when they root in the ground.  Chicken is not used because chickens scratch backwards and could lead to set backs, and any winged fowl could cause good luck to fly away.  Hoppin’ John is served with cooked greens (the color of paper money) and corn bread (the color of gold) to ensure economic fortune.  Be sure to leave three peas on your plate when you are done to assure that the upcoming year is filled with luck, fortune, and romance.

Hoppin’ John

  • 2 tablespoons oil or lard
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small green pepper, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 pound of black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
  • 1 ham hock
  • 9 cups water
  • 2 cups of rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Warm the oil or lard in the bottom of a large Dutch oven, then add the celery, onion, and green pepper. Cook until tender. Add the bay leaf, soaked peas, ham hock, and four cups water. Cook for about one hour, until the peas are tender but not mushy. In another pot bring five cups of water to a boil. Add the salt and rice, cover, and simmer until all the water is absorbed. When peas are done, drain them and discard the bay leaf. Pull all the meat from the ham hock, and add the meat back to the pot of beans. Mix with cooked rice and salt and pepper to taste.

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Pork and sauerkraut is a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition for good luck on New Years Day, and I am lucky enough to live close to this area so that I can buy freshly made or home-canned sauerkraut. This is a very simple recipe for roasting, but it works just as well in the crock pot or boiling on top of the stove.

Traditional Roast Pork and Sauerkraut

  • 2 tablespoons oil or lard
  • 3 to 4 pound pork butt or shoulder roast with bone in
  • 1 large onion, cut into large chunks
  • 2 large apples, cored and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 4 or 5 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • One quart of sauerkraut
  • Large sprig of rosemary

In a large Dutch oven or deep cast-iron frying pan with lid, heat the oil or lard and add the roast. Sear each side until it is browned and then remove it from pot. Add onion, apples, and thyme, and cook them until they are slightly browned. Remove them from the pan and add the roast back into the pan. Surround it with uncooked potatoes. Pour sauerkraut on top of potatoes. Top the sauerkraut with the apples, onion, and thyme mixture. Lay the rosemary sprig on top of roast and place the lid on top. Place into a preheated oven of 325 degrees and roast for about three hours.

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