It's just about New Year's here in the Valley. I reckon a lot of you are planning some sort of "in with the new" dinner, and quite often it involves pork. Pork and sauerkraut, BBQ, black eyed peas and roast pork. I'm from the South and many of you already know we are adamant about our black eyed peas (field peas) for New Year's. Where does this tradition come from? Pork and beans were cheap? I can't vouch for most people, but in my part of the world, the tale I was told is that the 1) pork represents an industrious year and 2) the beans represent fortune. Broken down further: 1) pigs use their snouts to push forward! Onward into 2015! and 2) beans, conceivably, could be likened to coins and more money in your pocket. I'll leave it at that. Pork and beans taste good together. That's really all I know for sure.
In North Carolina in particular, we are fond of Hoppin' John, on New Year's Day and for that matter, any time you can get good black eyed peas and pork. It's a dish that layers good rice with ham or bacon, scallions, grated sharp cheese, and tomato. I might be sitting in a sweet little Washington State farmhouse looking at a kitchen yard covered in frost, but I am dreaming of eating a perfect of Hoppin' John at the counter of Crook's Corner, a beloved Chapel Hill eatery. Black and white checkered tiles (not unlike an old lunch counter-slash-drugstore), iron pig statue on roof, wild herbs and black eyed Susans growing on to the sidewalk, and all. It doesn't get better than that (unless you're having it with one of their frozen mint juleps and a side of corn bread to sop up the goodly extras).
I like to use an approximation of their recipe. Why make up my own? What will make it even better, though, and set you free in 2015, are a few choice ingredients:
- Good Rice (Carolina Gold) from Anson Mills, also available via Amazon
- Dashes of Crystal hot sauce on top
- Sautee the dry rice in pork fat from bacon, pork belly or ham. Add other ingredients and liquid. Add the crisped meat back when rice is almost done.
- Tasso ham in place of bacon, if you can get it. I was so spoiled in Saxapahaw! Damon Lapas crafted a tasso I will never forget. The smoky flavor and hint of fire makes it worth the search.
That being said, I wish all of you a beautiful year and I look forward to sharing it with y'all.