Black Eyed Peas For New Years Day (and why!)

If you’re planning on having a traditional Southern New Years Day dinner, go get your black eyed peas now before they sell out! I mentioned this on the Southern Plate Family page and some readers are already reporting not being able to find any. While you’re at it, pick up some collards or turnip greens and don’t forget the ham hocks and fatback!

peas 668_4000x3000

The following is from my Hoppin John tutorial but I wanted to tell it again with the black eyed peas in case anyone didn’t know why Southerners eat what we do on New Years Day.

New Year’s day hosts the most important meal of the entire year for Southerners. Deeply rooted in tradition, superstition, and hope for the future, we have definite must have dishes which even those of us who might not be as superstitious as others dare not shirk on this day.

I’ve told this story before, but it certainly bears repeating in reference to this meal. Back in the days of civil war, Union troops swept through the south, confiscating crops and livestock to use as provisions for their troops. Southerners who weren’t off fighting were left with precious little, save for peas and greens. You see, Union soldiers considered “field peas” and greens to be fit only for animal fodder. These dishes became cherished and appreciated as what saved many a family from starvation during those times and the tradition of celebrating these dishes on the new year was born.

There are three things every southerner must eat on New Years day, Black eyed peas, greens, and hog jowl or fatback.Black Eyed peas are said to bring luck in the coming year, with many traditions holding that you must eat at least 365 of them. We never had a number, but the more you ate, the more luck you were supposed to have so Mama always makes plenty!

Fatback is very tough and extremely salty, it looks just like a thick slice of bacon but is more difficult to chew. As one of the cheapest cuts of meat, it rose rapidly in popularity during the depression era of the South. Eating this is said to ensure good health in the coming year and I must say, it is delicious.

Greens can be either turnip, collard, or a mix of greens or a “mess” as we call them. They are said to bring wealth in the new year and as with black eyed peas, the amount of wealth you have is directly proportionate to how much of them you eat! To see my greens tutorial (I just love the pepper sauce recipe), click here.

peas 636_2784x3846

I don’t store my dried beans in the plastic bags they come in because I tend to purchase beans and store them a while (I buy in large quantities). Whenever I go to get dried beans, I pick up a couple of bags of each kind we like, which adds up quickly.

I used to store them in the bags but learned the hard way that this is not a good idea as the bags are easily permeated by little critters, especially certain types of buggies who delight in dried beans. Instead, I keep some large mason jars around and pour the bags out as soon as I get home with them. The mason jars look really pretty if you have a country kitchen and although I keep most of them in my pantry you’ll always find a few on shelves or the top of the fridge in arrangements in my kitchen. This is also how I store my popcorn kernels, candies for baking, and many other items. I find it’s not only frugal, but the glass jars are reusable for a number of things indefinitely.

peas 638_3924x2896

Sort your dried beans into a bowl.

Sometimes, little stones end up being packaged with the beans. This is just an unavoidable aspect of bean farming and no big deal. What you do to avoid cooking up those stones with your beans (and possibly breaking a guests tooth!) is to pour out a handful at time into your palm and look through them before dumping them into a bowl.

peas 639_3996x2994

Now we have to soak our peas.

I prefer the overnight soak method but if you would rather, you can simply cover your peas with water, bring them to boil, then remove them from heat and cover and let soak for one hour.Pour out the soak water and replace with fresh water to cook the peas in until done.

Having said that, I still prefer the overnight soak method, which is what we’re doing here :)

Before going to bed, cover the peas with water, leaving plenty of extra because they will absorb the liquid and expand.

peas 643_3952x2934

See how much they expanded overnight? Now pour out this water…

peas 645_4000x3000

And let me show you this beautiful bowl I had the peas soaking in…

peas 646_4000x3000It’s Pyrex, of course, a Cinderella bowl, which means it has handles on both sides. This pattern is called “Daisy”. I love how gorgeous and sunshiney it looks. Reminds me of my first trip to Florida when I was five and we stopped at the welcome center for free orange juice.

We thought we were big stuff if folks were on standby just to give us orange juice the moment we crossed over the state line!

peas 649_3990x2988

Put drained peas in a large pot.

peas 650_4000x3000

Add some type of pork for seasoning.

I am using a big old hunk from our Christmas ham.

DSCN1173[1]

The finest seasoning is a ham bone with a bit of meat still on it but you can also purchase a package of ham hocks for just a few dollars if you need to (I usually pay $2-$3 for four ham hocks). I also keep slices of country ham in bags in my freezer to season beans with in a pinch, works like a charm.

It is possible to make peas or dried beans without using pork as a seasoning but if you want to make real Southern black eyed peas, you’re gonna have to get a pig involved…

peas 651_3996x2994

Fill pot with water. Make sure you cover them well because it will boil down over the course of the day and you don’t want your beans to go dry.

Another way of doing this is to cook the beans this exact same way in the slow cooker. With the lid on, you won’t have to worry about it boiling dry during the day or check on it like you do the pot.

peas 656_3998x2996

Now we add our seasoning. To read about how I learned to season beans ~giggle~ check out this post on pintos.

You’re going to have to season to your personal taste but I start with a tablespoon of each. Add a tablespoon of salt…

Note: you’ll definitely need to add more salt so be sure and taste it after a few hours of cooking.

peas 657_4000x3000

and a tablespoon of pepper…

peas 658_3834x2764

A tablespoon of sugar

This is a Southern Granny thing. If your grandmother was a southerner, chances are she told you to do this and we don’t question our granny’s, we just do as we are told with a smile of gratitude and a “yes Ma’am”!

peas 659_4000x3000

and add a tablespoon of oil.

(Also a granny thing..)

Bring that to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for a few hours.

peas 660_3824x2748

Remove ham, hambone, or ham hock, and shred it.

peas 662_4000x3000

Return to pot and stir. Taste to see what seasonings you want to add more of.

Add more salt whether you think it needs it or not because it does, I promise.

Grandmama says “Beans just need a good bit of salt.”

Serve warm. Pour a little of the juice over your cornbread or onto your plate to sop up with your cornbread because this is delicious! The juice is known as “potlikker” or “pot liquor” by the fancy folks.

I read somewhere the Southerners serve pot liquor in cups along side their dishes to dip cornbread in. I’ve never heard of anyone doing this in my life, have you? I’ve heard of folks putting extra juice in a bowl of beans and crumbling cornbread over the top and I’ve also heard of pouring juice over cornbread, but serving it in cups alongside seems a bit too high falootin for my tastes. But hey, maybe I need to get a little more high falootin’ in my life. Maybe I’ll pour m’bean juice in a little custard cup and even hold my pinky out while I dip my cornbread….Naaaaahhh. ~winks~

Black Eyed Peas

Black Eyed Peas

Ingredients

  • 1 Pkg Dried Black Eyed Peas (or field peas, or cow peas) - package size doesn't matter
  • Pork for seasoning: ham hocks, ham bone, or large piece of ham
  • 1 T salt (will need more)
  • 1 T pepper
  • 1 T cooking oil
  • 1 T Sugar

Instructions

  1. Sort through beans to ensure there aren't any stones. Place sorted beans in a large mixing bowl or pot. Completely cover with water (with a few inches extra over the top) and soak overnight. In morning, pour off soaking water and place in pot they're to be cooked in. Add pork for seasoning. Cover with water and several more inches to ensure that peas don't boil dry. Add all other seasonings. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for several hours. Remove ham and shred, place back in pot. Continue cooking until peas are tender. Total cooking time will take at least three to four hours.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://www.southernplate.com/2009/12/black-eyed-peas-for-new-years-day-and-why.html

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A member of our Southern Plate Family sent me a fascinating and detailed message via Facebook today regarding New Years traditions and I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did! Special thanks to Melissa!

The six major categories of New Year’s foods are grapes, greens, legumes, pork, fish and cakes. Here is what they represent:

Grapes: In Spain people eat twelve grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock. This dates back to 1909, when grape growers in the Alicante region of Spain initiated the practice to take care of a grape surplus. The idea stuck, spreading to Portugal as well as former Spanish and Portuguese colonies such as Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru. Each grape represents a different month, so if for instance the third grape is a bit sour, March might be a rocky month. For most, the goal is to swallow all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight!

Cooked Greens: Cooked greens, including cabbage, collards, kale, and chard, are consumed at New Year’s in different countries for a simple reason — their green leaves look like folded money, and are symbolic of economic fortune. The Danish eat stewed kale sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, the Germans consume sauerkraut (cabbage) while in the southern United States, collards are the green of choice. It’s widely believed that the more greens one eats the larger one’s fortune next year.

Legumes: These include beans, peas, and lentils and are also symbolic of money. Their small, seedlike appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In the Southern United States, it’s traditional to eat black-eyed peas or cowpeas in a dish called hoppin’ john. There are even those who believe in eating one pea for every day in the new year. This all traces back to the legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Virginia, ran out of food while under attack. The residents fortunately discovered black-eyed peas and the legume was thereafter considered lucky.

Pork: The custom of eating pork on New Year’s is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. Different pork dishes such as pig’s feet are enjoyed in Sweden while Germans feast on roast pork and sausages. Pork is also consumed in Italy and the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.

Fish: Fish is a very logical choice for the New Year’s table. According to Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, cod has been a popular feast food since the Middle Ages. He compares it to turkey on Thanksgiving. The reason? Long before refrigeration and modern transportation, cod could be preserved and transported allowing it to reach the Mediterranean and even as far as North Africa and the Caribbean. Some people have been known to place a few fish scales in their wallets for good luck.

Cakes: Cakes and other baked goods are commonly served from Christmas to New Year’s around the world, with a special emphasis placed on round or ring-shaped items, a shape symbolizing the eternal, the neverending and continuity. In certain cultures, it’s customary to hide a special trinket or coin inside the cake. Whoever finds the trinket is said to be the recipient of good luck throughout the coming year. Cakes aren’t always round. In Scotland, where New Year’s is called Hogmanay, there is a tradition called “first footing,” in which the first person to enter a home after the new year determines what kind of year the residents will have. The “first footer” often brings symbolic gifts like coal to keep the house warm or baked goods such as shortbread, oat cakes, and a fruit caked called black bun, to make sure the household always has food.

In many cultures to have food on the table AT MIDNIGHT is symbolic of bringing good fortune into the home at the beginning of the New Year so that the home is guaranteed success and prosperity all throughout the coming year.

What NOT to Eat: Lobster, for instance, is a bad idea because they move backwards and could therefore lead to setbacks. Chicken is also discouraged because the bird scratches backwards, which could cause regret or dwelling on the past. Another theory warns against eating any winged fowl because good luck could fly away.

Now I am not a believer in “luck” of any kind…being a Christian, I put my faith and hope in God for my and my family’s needs to be met and believe that nothing is by accident. However, it is FUN to explore the origins of food and tradition, so I hope you enjoyed this little tidbit of info!

From One Foodie to Another…Many Blessings in the New Year!

Melissa K. Hand
Southern Plate Fan, Chef & Fellow Foodie

“Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think, say or do. It is more important than appearance, gift, or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.”

- Charles Swindoll. Submit your quote here.

Also of interest:

How to cook a ham and get AT LEAST Four meals out of it

Free Holiday Recipes!

thanksgiving-collage

Looking for recipes to make your Holiday meals more special?

Click here to visit my Holiday Menu Bonanza Post with photos and links to *70* recipes! 

Enjoy This Post? Never Miss Another!

Subscribe to Christy's email list and receive all her new posts directly in your inbox

Comments

  1. Hilda H says

    That brought back memories, my grandpaw always called the juice off of turnip greens pot liquor,and corn was roast nears.Not sure why, may be due to almost all of the time there were no turnip greens left, we all pretty much licked the pot clean.lol. My granny always cooked her vegetables in an cast iron kettle,and the taste was sooo good. And she always had a baked rice pudding to eat. I love your web sight!!!!!!!!!

  2. Beth says

    Christy,
    Thanks for all the yummy recipes on your website. My family looks forward to whatever new dish I discover and try next. Just curious, where do you find all these great Pyrex bowls? They remind me of my Mom.

    • says

      Hey Beth! Thank YOU so much for being here!
      I’ve gathered Pyrex throughout the years. Some of it has been passed down by family but most was found at flea markets, ebay, and thrift stores. Flea Markets are my favorite place to hunt!
      Gratefully,
      Christy

  3. Cathy Z says

    Love your recipes, I grew up in the south but never cared for blackeyed peas. I was so happy when I moved to Ohio and learned that their good luck meal for New Years is pork and saurkraut…yum one of my favorite meals.

  4. says

    Well, Christy, I’ve got a “lazy girl’s” way to cook my peas. I buy a bag of ‘em, sort ‘em and dump ‘em in the Crockpot! I add water so that it’s twice as high in the pot as the peas. I throw in my smoked hocks, tablespoon of salt, and let it go on low from the night of the 30th. By midnight, New Year’s Eve, they’re ready to eat. Always heard that they were the very first thing you should put in your mouth in the new year. (BTW, that’s one benefit of now living in Michigan – you don’t have to worry about the stores selling out of peas or greens!)

  5. Anna Evans says

    Christy,
    I love your website! Your sparkly personality and beautiful spirit shines through your words and recipes. Though you are always politically correct, as a fellow Christian, I know where that sparkle comes from!

    With each of your posts, I feel a kinship of sorts! (And, by the way, I, too have a degree in Home Economics, known now as Family and Consumer Sciences.)Though I am Texas born and bred, my family’s traditions and cooking style reflects all of your’s. I come from a large extended family…including beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins (kissin and other wise,) in laws, out laws, step laws, adopted family laws, and friend laws. Holidays have always been fun, silly, treasured time together. My grandfather was a Baptist minister, so needless to say, no spirits were served on New Year’s Eve at midnight, nor any other time! Traditions came in different ways and from different family members. My Aunt Kate, fun, mischievious, and all around delightful, started our New Year’s Eve midnight tradition. How, and why it came about, who knows. At the stroke of midnight, you MUST, sit on the floor, eat blackeyed peas out of a cup, with a spoon, with a side of cornbread, slathered with butter, and a thick slice of onion. Don’t like those things??? Doesn’t matter! Tradition must be followed even if you have to be held down and forcedly fed, and sometimes, through the giggles, not too gently! Though the grandparents, aunts, uncles, many cousins and extended family members are now long since in heaven, the giggles, stories, and wonderful memories linger and are told over and over as we sit on the floor and eat our blackeyed peas with a spoon, at the stroke of midnight:)

  6. Georgia says

    One thing I notice about hog jowl is the stores tend to put it out wrapped as one hunk of meat. You have to pick out two or three hunks and ask their butcher slice it like thick bacon. Sometimes you find it by the bacon and sometimes by the ham.

    I love hog jowl. It has a thin rind on it that is good for chewing on after you eat the “bacon” part off.

  7. Georgia says

    Oh… and I bake it in the oven on toast pans/cookie sheets that have a depth of half inch to one inch to catch the grease that cooks off.

    I’m showing how old I am by referring to a cookie sheet as a toast pan. I don’t think anyone calls it a toast pan anymore.

  8. says

    When I married my husband, everyone assumed that I could cook beans, although truth be told, I couldn’t cook much of anything. They were used to beans at every cookout so I got busy with my cookbooks and talked to friends. Over the years, my beans won accolades from the family, and I was always asked to bring them. I found out why when my favorite brother-in-law explained to me that I was cooking “rich man’s beans.” They grew up eating beans cooked with salt pork, and I seasoned my beans with ham. What a laugh we had!

  9. Denise in Dallas says

    we would always have black-eyed peas for luck and fried cabbage for prosperity.

    I’ve never liked the texture of black eyed peas, but Mom insisted that we must eat a few of them.

    Denise

  10. Sandy Whitehead says

    Ha! “Rich man’s beans” ! My stepmama called it “Poor Man’s Supper” when we had pinto beans or blackeyes, mashed potatoes and corn bread (green onions, and buttermilk finished out the meal.) And Boyz Howdy, did we love it-Still do.

  11. ERIN SANCHEZ says

    being from the west coast… I have never tried this, always heard of it but never tried. Well I could sure use some extra luck (although I am grateful for all my blessings) One question, what exactly do the beans taste like? Are they similar to a white bean? Just curious, I will still make em, just wondering what they taste like. If anyone can comment that would be appreciated.

  12. says

    Christy,

    I love your recipes and your stories but I have to say, this is one I do not love. My parents were from Kentucky and my sister and I both detest hoppin’ John and greens. We used to get off the school bus and we could tell by the smell in the yard that our mom was cooking greens or spam, which we also detested.

    We, as adults, have both chosen to follow our Irish heritage by cooking either corned beef and cabbage or pork and cabbage or sauerkraut for good luck.

    Best of luck for your family in the New Year,

    Pamela Stevens, BSW/MS Gerontology

  13. Stephanie says

    I am glad that I stumbled across your site. This is just how my mother and grandmother’s cooked New Year’s dinner, but we also have always put a dime in the black eyed peas and whoever got the dime got extra fortune for the year. My fiance can’t believe some of the traditions that we have and especially the sayings. He also can’t understand why I put sugar on almost all of my food, lol. My daughter is diabetic so I usually use splenda and it taste the same when cooked in the food. A few adjustments because of her being diabetic, but everything still comes out tasting very good. Thanks for all the information.

  14. says

    I used your recipes for the black eyed peas & greens (collard, mustard & turnip) & they are sooooo delicious. Just couldn’t wait, I’ve already had some of each before midnight. Thanks for the great recipes! You’re awesome!
    Happy New Year Neighbor!

  15. Sassy says

    I grew up with White Beans & Ham Hocks on New Years Day, My Grand always made it as does my Dad and I have been doing it for my husband and our 2 daughters ever since we been married, it’s a tradition that was brought up here to Oregon when we moved here from Texas and my Grand brought it with her to Texas from the Ozarks of Arkansas. I also make a big ole mess of Cornbread and save aside a couple of chunks for Sweet Milk and Cornbread before bed on New Years Night.
    Happy New Year Everyone!

  16. Gayle Spears says

    Happy New Year! Fixed these peas in the crockpot on New Years Eve, since we had church the next day at 11; wasn’t sure they would be done before church if I cooked them that morning. They were great!! Even my hubby, who grew up having to eat peas sometimes twice a day (and now hates them) ate some and enjoyed them. Also fixed your fried cabbage – yum!! Thanks for all the hard work and love you put into your website and recipes!!

  17. audrey humphreys says

    Christy,
    You would be surprised at how many women don’t know how to cook dried beans. A friend of mine asked me how to make pintos. I told her how to cook them in the crock pot and that i only put water, a stick of butter and sometimes some ham in them. After I told her how to do it, she asked me if that was all. I told her yes, she said, “what makes them brown then?” It was so funny. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas and you have a Blessed New Year!!!

  18. Kristi Bundick says

    My husband was wanting some good ole fashioned black eyed peas for New Years this year. So I did a search and yours was the first one I went to. Thank you for the recipe. This was very good. We all enjoyed the beans very much. I think it is a keeper for years to come.

  19. sara says

    I made these the other day with the ham hocks and wound up taking them out not long after because my husband complained of the smell…I stuck in cubed ham instead and he had a few for good luck and there they laid. They didn’t wind up tasting bad, but, I dunno.

    Next time I will have to try it your way. Maybe they will turn out good then. Oh, I had added a little bit of chicken broth to the mixture too – not sure how that affected them! Thanks for this recipe – next year it will definitely be done this way.

  20. Karen says

    My recipe is very very similar. I use bacon and add chopped onion. Fry chopped bacon, save about a tablespoon of grease in pan, add onion and beans, after onions have sweated and start to carmelize, add rest of ingredients. We also serve it over rice and or cornbread. Gotta love beans. Occasionally we add skinless pieces of chicken to beans while cooking. Excellent flavors.

  21. MaryLena Anderegg says

    As a born and bred tarheel, every New Year’s Day, we had the same menu and followed the same tradition. We had turnip greens or collards, black-eyed peas, ham, sweet potatoes (either baked or in a pie), and cornbread. Each year we were told that the peas were to remind us not to look down on small savings as each pea represented a penny we would save in the coming year. Each fork of greens represented the dollars that would grow from the pennies we saved. The potatoes were to remind us that the lowliest event can bring sweetness to life. The ham taught us to “root” for ourselves (translation: be self-sufficient). The cornbread was to remind us we could always raise our own food.

  22. MaryLena Anderegg says

    By the way, we also saved the pot likker from the greens and froze it til the harsher part of winter. We defrosted it and drank it like hot chocolate in the evenings when winter became cold and damp. Sometimes we would add some hot sauce just to “spike” it. We seldom had colds.

  23. says

    I grew up on pot licker and cornbread (Dixie Lilly white cornmeal) in a hoecake done in a black iron skillet. And yes it does indeed go in a cup. I’ve had black eyed peas for and greens for 56 years. It’s as southern as you can get. I think this year I’m going to change my luck and try Chinese. lol

  24. Janel says

    Well, Christy, I found Black Eyed Peas in our HEB grocery store on Friday so we’ll be having them with left-over ham on Tuesday. We are transplanted Missourians, but we’ll be doing what we’ve heard we should do on New Year’s Day.

    I hope you and your family have a very Happy New Year!

  25. Ken says

    Christy, great site and your recipe is exactly how my mom cooked them (and therefore how I cook them). I grew up poor and didn’t know it, I thought everyone had beans or peas as their main course for dinner! Dad fried up fatback like bacon because that’s what he ate growing up on a farm. Mom would make a smiley face with ketchup on top of our beans and we would have either cornbread sticks or hoe cakes.

    I had been told the tradition was the peas represented coins and the greens money, and the more you ate the more you would get in the new year. I found this interesting site that backs up your version: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/vegetables/blackeye.html

    I’m considering using the crock pot this year for convenience and the fact that everything that I’ve ever eaten out of a crock pot was great! Jeri is right about the cast iron skillet, I stopped using the non-stick because of health concerns and have discovered for myself what every southern cook has known all along, cast iron is the perfect skillet. Never wash it, just wipe it out and it’s ready for the next time it’s needed.

    Happy New Year to you Christy and everyone else as well! God Bless!

  26. Linda Watters says

    Christy, when I make dried beans, (my fave is baby limas), I usually don’t have ham to cook with it. I substitute Ham Base, like chicken base. I use that for the flavoring for the beans. I use it in place of salt. The flavor is fantastic. I have beans in my cupboard now waiting to be cooked and served over rice. MMM.

    Linda

  27. Ann Eichorn says

    enjoyed the info on the southern tradition of eating black eyed peas, etc but my sister noticed that Melissa said the battle was at Vicksburg Virginia and it was really at Vicksburg, MS

  28. says

    I’m making red beans and rice instead of black eyed peas, because none of the stores around here sell black eyed peas! Can you believe it? Wanted to do collards as well, but the store didn’t have any of those, either. Salad it is :) Hopefully lots of lettuce leaves will bring us lots of riches, too! In any case, I get to use my fancy new crock pot that I got for Christmas, so that’s exciting. Side note, how is your Hamilton Beach 3 crock crock pot holding up? I have the same one as you, loved it to bits until it died a mere 3 years after purchasing it :(

  29. Mary says

    Hi Christy!

    Happy New Year! I just had a chance to make the wonderful Black Eyed Peas recipe and I wanted to thank you for another great recipe!! I am a northerner (Colorado) so I am learning how to cook the Southern way through your site with your guidance and wonderful stories. This was the first time I have ever made the black eyed peas and they were a big hit with my family!! I have friends from the Carolina’s who enjoyed them as well, as their wives do not cook :) Thank you again!!

Trackbacks

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *