Lucky Peas, Please!
New Year's Day in the South is easy - we have eaten the same thing for years, no... for centuries! Black eye peas, smoked ham hocks, collard greens and rice. These were affordable staples that our families could not only grow but also preserve easily in southern Georgia.
Even today, when we take the boat out in Savannah, we ride through the old rice fields that whilst for most people who are "new" to Savannah - translate, you are not 7th+ generation - you may not even realize you are riding through the old abandoned rice fields! Note to self: we need to snap a pic.
Black Eyed Peas are legumes and dry easily on the bush in our garden to enjoy all year long (and who doesn’t love Hoppin’ John). We use them in recipes from soups and stews to bean salads or dips and of course in our favorite Cowboy Caviar Recipe.
Let's get to what I am cooking around the farm today:
Lucky Black Eye Peas with Smoked Ham Hocks
First, the black eye peas - these were hard to find when I lived in Wisconsin - when it comes to cooking, the biggest difference between dried peas vs canned or frozen is the cooking time. If you use dry, begin soaking them the night before - completely cover with water, by morning all the water will be gone and the peas will be ready to cook.
Today, after New Years breakfast, I will saute 3 TBL butter, 5 slices of bacon (cut into 1 inch squares before cooking) and add a half finely diced Vidalia onion with 1 stalk of coarsely chopped celery. Personally, I like to cook this dish in an enameled Dutch oven - use what you have that is heavy and about the size of a big soup pot.
Add 32oz of chicken broth and your peas to the bacon/onion mix, don't worry about the "grease" - here, we call that FLAVOR! Allow all of these favors to combine for at least 3 hours - that means put a lid on that pot, turn the stove down to a very low temp (on my stove I use "2" setting). While that's cooking, let's go prep the rest of our recipe then we will relax, food is made for the day!
Life is interesting in that we eat the peas for "luck" and we always associate happiness with luck. However, we need both the sadness and the happiness - after all, how can you experience one without the experiencing the other to know the difference?
Growing up, my maternal Grandmother Perkins had a pig named Jimmy Dean who knew how to roll-over any time she spelled the word. Back in the day, hogs were entry level stock meaning not everyone could afford one (or any meat type farm animal) but when a family saved enough money one of the first animals they could purchase was a hog. If you don't know, hogs are very smart and grow upwards of 1,200 lbs! They are so big a common joke was about why people have a 3 legged pig, but I digress.
Now, it is time for us to heat the smoked ham hock using a consistent heat of 350 in the oven (you can cook on the stove or grill but today we are using the oven so I can walk away and read for a bit). Ask your local butcher for a meaty smoked ham hock, wrap it loosely in foil and cook for an hour to where the meat should begin to fall off the bone. Remove the ham from the oven, allow to cool for a good 30 minutes then use a fork to remove most of the meat from the bone. Any meat that is stuck to the bone you now have a major decision..... keep the bone w/meat for a soup next week or toss it into the pot as well..... hmmm, a big decision for the New Year! ha ha!
Now, take your freshly washed, fresh-out-the-garden collard greens, fold the leaf like a book and slice the spine from the face of the leaf. Stack the leaves, roll them like an egg roll, then slice across to make strips of collard greens.
Good news, you are basically finished - just toss the shredded ham and collard strips into your pot with some diced tomatoes and a diced jalapeno pepper.
That's it - really - just let it all simmer and enjoy it over a bed of whole grain rice! This dish gains flavor the longer you let it sit or simmer PLUS it freezes well - so dish out some into a container before it is all gone - you will enjoy it February 1st just as much as you do today!
Farm-to-Table, that is how we do it at Scott Family Farm!