Lucky New Year's Meal
These two Southern classics all but guarantee a prosperous year. Some say the greens represent dollar bills and the peas, coins, ensuring wealth and luck.
According to folklore, this auspicious New Year’s Day tradition dates back to the Civil War, when Union troops pillaged the land, leaving behind only black-eyed peas and greens as animal fodder. Rich in nutrients, these were the humble foods that enabled Southerners to survive. Details of stories differ, but each celebrates a communion of family and friends bound by grateful hearts and renewed hope for good things yet to come.
Cornbread, which some say symbolizes gold, completes the Southern New Year’s triad. Native Americans were the first to bake a cornmeal mixture, and Southerners made it daily when wheat was a rarity in the region. For authentic Southern flavor, choose a recipe that uses little, if any, sugar and flour. Don’t forget the cracklings, crispy morsels produced during the rendering of lard.
Slow-cooking collards with pork makes them mouthwatering and tender. Their soul-warming taste can be perfected only with the addition of vinegar.
Be sure to save a few uncooked greens to tack to the ceiling for good luck or hang over the door to ward off evil spirits.
- Recipe: Southern-Style Collard Greens
This Carolina Lowcountry dish pairs black-eyed peas with rice. The rice and beans are cooked slowly with bacon, fatback, or ham hock along with onion and salt. “Skippin’ Jenny,” as the leftovers are known the day after New Year’s, shows one’s frugality; eating it increases your chances of prosperity.
Don’t be afraid to try a fresher, quicker recipe for this Southern dietary staple. Sautéed Collard Greens are packed with flavor from chopped ginger and spicy serrano peppers. Plus, they’re better for you and cook in just 26 minutes.
- Recipe: Sautéed Greens
This dish offers an updated take on black-eyed peas while still delivering the good luck of the traditional dish. Peppery watercress fills in for traditional greens, and Chilean peaches add fresh flair.
Test Kitchen Tip: Frozen black-eyed peas deliver the taste and texture of fresh—they hold their shape and absorb less dressing than softer canned and dried peas. When using in salads, trim the recommended cook time by 5 or 10 minutes and simmer only until al dente.
- Recipe: Lucky Black-eyed Pea Salad
Pot likker, the juice left in a pot after collards cook, is traditionally valued as a delicacy and aphrodisiac. Be sure to sop up the vitamin-rich pot likker with your cornbread or make it into this warm and comforting soup.
- Recipe: Pot Likker Soup
With the flavor-packed coating on these treats, you’ll easily be able to eat 365; some traditions hold that you must eat one for each day of the coming year. Roasting the peas gives them a crispy texture that’s perfect for snacking or serving as an appetizer on New Year’s Day.
- Recipe: Chili-Roasted Black Eyed Peas