Essential New Year's foods aren't hard to make at home


You can make these New Year's classics, from left, corn bread, black-eyed peas and collard greens, at home.

Photo provided
Published: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at 3:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 3:10 p.m.

How do you ring in the new year? Do you open up the windows and the doors to “let the old year out?” Do your kids jump off the couch at midnight? Do you dress in a kilt and swing fireballs over your head?

Facts

Want to go?

What: Good Luck Spartanburg Lunch
When: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Jan. 1
Where: Mobile Meals (dine in or take out), 419 E. Main St.
Cost: $10 per plate (black-eyed peas, pork, collards and corn bread)
Info: Call 573-7684 or go to www.mobile-meals.org/event-details.php?eid=13

How about wearing fancy colorful underwear in hopes of luck, love and wealth in the coming months?

Traditions across the globe can be crazy, and while most of us don't believe we will actually obtain luck from these, we still hold on to many of them. Luckily, holding on to New Year's culinary traditions is the simplest, as well as the most delicious.

Pork, legumes, greens and corn bread are considered the Southern essentials for a lucky New Year's feast. In many cultures, pork is the luckiest food that can be eaten on New Year's. There are several reasons.

For one, pork has a very rich fat content, thus symbolizing wealth and prosperity. A pig also only roots forward for food and cannot turn its head to look back. This concept of forward progression is seen as a positive and necessary addition to New Year's grub.

Beans, peas and lentils are eaten to represent coins. Also, the transformation from their dried form to plump and tender when cooked symbolizes wealth.

Almost any leafy green qualifies as a great New Year's food because those such as cabbage, kale or my favorite, collards, all represent the green of money. This association with economic prosperity and wealth is popular all over the U.S. (keep in mind that not all countries have green money).

Last of the essentials is corn bread, which is meant to represent the hope of bringing gold to one's pocket in the coming year. Depending on the region, corn bread ingredients will differ: In the North, it's often sweet and could contain eggs, whereas most Southern corn bread is savory and contains very few ingredients.

Enjoy the corn bread of your choice — just make sure it's not from a box.

(The Best) Collard Greens

5 strips of bacon, diced*

1 onion, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 bunches collard greens

2 cups chicken stock

Lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Spread the diced bacon in the bottom of a large pot. Turn heat to medium and let the bacon cook undisturbed until it fully browns around the edges.

Stir in onions and garlic to coat with bacon and sprinkle with salt. Cook until translucent.

While the onions cook, hold the stem of the collards with one hand and use the other to strip the leaf from the stem. Dice the stems and cut the leaves into roughly 1-inch-by-3-inch strips; submerge the leaves in a bowl or sink full of cold water. Agitate the greens with your hands to allow any dirt to sink to the bottom of the water. Drain the leaves and, if available, spin dry in a salad spinner.

Add the diced stems to the bacon and onions. Stir to coat and let cook until bright green, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the collard leaves to the pot and use tongs to fold into the bacon and onions.

Increase heat to medium-high and add the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until greens are slightly tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Season to taste with lemon juice, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

*Place bacon in the freezer for about 20 minutes before dicing to make cutting easier.

Corn Bread

1 cup yellow cornmeal

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 tablespoon kosher salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

cup vegetable

shortening, plus some for the pan

About 2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a large cast iron skillet in the oven for about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt.

Use a pastry cutter or your fingertips to blend in butter and shortening.

Add buttermilk, about cup at a time, to form a thick but pourable batter.

Remove the skillet from the oven and place a dollop of shortening into the pan. As it melts, swirl to coat the sides.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake until golden brown and the center is firm to the touch, about 20-30 minutes.

Let cool in the skillet for about 5 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack. Slice and serve hot with plenty of butter.

Black-Eyed Peas

1 cup dried black-eyed peas, picked through for stones

5 cups cold water

Olive oil

1 onion, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

2 fresh thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

4-6 cups chicken or

vegetable stock

1 ham bone or ham stock*

Lemon juice, to taste

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Smoked paprika

Place peas in a pot or large bowl. Cover with about 5 cups of cold water. Refrigerate for 6-8 hours.

Remove from the fridge, drain into a colander and rinse several times. Set aside.

Place a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pot. Add onions and stir to coat with the oil. Cook without stirring until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and bay leaves; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Do not add salt.**

Add soak-and-rinsed peas, stock, and ham bone or hock. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer until tender, about 1 to 1 hours, adding more stock as needed. (The peas are fully cooked when several peas can be smashed fairly easily between two fingers.)

Remove and discard garlic cloves, thyme stems, bay leaves and ham bone or hock.

Season well to taste with lemon juice, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and smoked paprika.

*Ham bones left from a holiday ham add great flavor to beans, stews and soups, and can be well-wrapped and frozen until ready to use. A ham hock is often smoked and/or salted. Before using a hock for beans or peas, soak in cold water for several hours, changing the water a few times, to remove excess salt (see below).

**Adding salt to the peas or beans before or while cooking can cause them to cook unevenly or never reach desired tenderness.

Smoked Pork

Tenderloin

2 large disposable foil roasting pans*

2 pork tenderloins

2 cups apple juice or apple cider

4 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 bay leaves, crushed

2 cloves garlic, smashed

2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

1 cup hardwood chips, such as apple, cherry, hickory, etc.

Crumble in the corners of one of the aluminum pans so it is no longer rectangular. Use a screwdriver to poke lots of holes into the sides (but not bottom) of the pan. Line the bottom of this pan with crinkled aluminum foil, creating an uneven surface on the bottom.

Use a thin, sharp non-serrated knife to remove the shiny silver skin from the pork tenderloins. Place pork in a large zip-top bag.

In a small pot, combine juice or cider, kosher salt, brown sugar, bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, and allow to cool completely. Add a few ice cubes to speed up the process.

When the brine is completely cool, pour over the pork and seal the zip-top bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Double bag or place single bag in a baking dish. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Place wood chips in a bowl and cover with water. Soak for about an hour.

Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Let pork sit at room temperature, uncovered, for at least an hour. (Yes, it is safe to leave meat at room temperature for up to 2-3 hours.) Allowing the meat to form a dry surface will help the smoke adhere to the meat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the remaining aluminum roasting pan on the stove over medium-high. Drain the wood chips and scatter them on the bottom of the pan. The chips will start to steam, and after a few minutes the steam will turn to smoke.

At this point, place the prepared aluminum roasting pan inside the other, on top of the smoking chips. Place the tenderloins on top of the crinkled foil and tightly cover the whole pan package with foil and transfer to the oven. Roast for about 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and use an instant-read thermometer to check to see that the internal temperature of the pork has reached 155 degrees. Let pork rest for at least 5 minutes before thinly slicing.

*Do NOT attempt this with an induction cook top. Aluminum + induction = bad news.

If you choose to smoke the pork using an outdoor charcoal grill, follow these instructions instead of using aluminum roasting pans:

In the base of a grill, heat a mound of charcoal until covered in gray ash. When the coals are hot, push over to one side of the grill and place a baking pan on the other side to catch any drippings.

Strain wood chips and spread onto a towel to remove any dripping water. Cover the hot coals with a few handfuls of soaked wood chips.

Line half of the grill grate or rack with aluminum foil, cutting slits in the foil every inch or so. When the steam from the wet wood chips turns to smoke, place the grill grate on the side farthest from the coals and above the drip pan.

Lay the air-dried pork on the foil and close the grill. Cook the pork undisturbed until the internal temperature is 155 degrees, about 10-15 minutes. Let pork rest for at least 5 minutes before thinly slicing.

Reach Season Stepp at Season28@aol.com.

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