PENINSULA KITCHEN: Collard greens and black-eyed peas bring luck, prosperity

WITH CHRISTMAS JUST a couple of days away, I find myself thinking ahead.

New Year’s Day is coming and I can’t help thinking about culinary goals and plans for 2019.

Something that has been on my culinary bucket list for quite some years is the southern tradition of collard greens and black eyed peas.

I grew up without much of a New Year’s culinary tradition.

My parents used to trundle us over to the neighbors where we would stay awake by consuming unlimited amounts of Coca-Cola and Fritos until it was time to go outside and bang pot lids together in the frosty darkness.

Like anything I am curious about, my first step is to Google it.

From Wikipedia I learned that collards, a large leafed member of the cabbage family, are eaten to symbolize money because they fold like a dollar bill.

The black-eyed peas are eaten at New Year’s in order to bring good luck for the coming year.

Because they puff up when cooked they symbolize growth and change.

Wikipedia goes on to list some foods to avoid on New Years including lobster because they move backward and winged animals because if you eat chicken your luck might fly away.

Enough on the symbolism. Let’s get to the kitchen.

The basic idea is a luscious bean stew and a well-simmered side of a sturdy winter green most frequently collards.

Most recipes include some kind of pork … a ham hock, a few strips of bacon or pork belly, but the pork can be omitted if you prefer a vegetarian option.

Before this week I did not have much experience with black-eyed peas.

I have cooked black beans, pintos and garbanzos many times and I have experimented with rinsing, overnight soaking and pre-cooking.

Until this week I assumed black-eyed peas would be very similar.

But I am happy to report that this legume cooks quickly and completely without soaking into a buttery creamy dish with none of the digestive difficulty caused by many legumes.

Black eyed peas cook so quickly that you can actually start this recipe with the collard greens.

Collard greens

2 bundles of collard greens washed with stems removed

2 tablespoons olive oil (or bacon grease if preferred)

2 cloves garlic minced

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1-2 cups water or broth

½ cup apple cider or red wine vinegar

Saute the garlic and seasonings in the olive oil or bacon grease.

Tear the stems from the leaves and chop them separately.

Tear the leafy parts of the collards into pieces and add to the sauté.

Add the water and vinegar and cook covered on low heat for an hour.

Add additional liquid as needed.

You can substitute kale or chard in this recipe but they will not need as much cooking time.

Collards are sturdy and get sweeter when simmered over time.

Black-eyed peas

2 slices of bacon chopped or a 2-inch cube of pork belly (substitute vegetable oil for a vegetarian option)

1 onion diced

2 cloves garlic minced

1 red or green pepper diced

1 teaspoon salt

2 bay leaves or ½ teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

1½ teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 pound black-eyed peas, rinsed

6 cups water or chicken broth

Using a medium-sized heavy bottomed pot, sauté the vegetables and seasonings with oil or bacon.

When the onions are translucent, add the water and black-eyed peas.

Simmer for about an hour.

You can tell if the peas are cooked thoroughly if you can put one in your mouth and easily smash it with the roof of your mouth.

In reading up on black-eyed peas, I have seen various cooking times recommended: 7, 8 even 9 hours.

I just finished making my second batch in preparation for this column and I can tell you an hour is enough cooking.

Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Serve this combination over rice with a bottle of hot sauce or a sprinkle of paprika and look forward to a new year filled with good luck and prosperity.

________

Betsy Wharton is the proprietor of the Clallam Canning Co., a local purveyor of artisan pickles and other farm to jar goods. You can find her and her products at the Sprouting Hope Greenhouse at 826 E. First St. in Port Angeles. Or contact her at betsy@clallam canningcompany.com.

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