It was my father who introduced me to the tradition of black-eyed peas and greens for New Year’s Day. I don’t know if it was handed down from prior generations or if he learned of it some other way, but for years he always made sure I had a can of black-eyed peas for good luck that day. He was a bit superstitious, always made sure the horse shoe was upright so that the luck did not run out... and oh would he pitch a fit if someone were to put a hat on a bed! So through the years, I have modified his tradition of the can of peas, into my own recipe for Peas and Greens, which I preserve sometime during the month of December so that I can give them out to friends, customers, and just anybody who looked like they could use a shot of luck. For a few years I went out of my way to make sure that all of the members of my family got a jar sometime around New Years, packing them up in my suitcase for my regular trip to San Francisco, or shipping them off to members who might be elsewhere. The farthest I had to ship them was to the suburbs of London, where an old friend of my father was hiding out from the holidays. Not the strangest food shipment I have every made, considering the brownies and country ham I shipped to a wonderful Englishwoman I met in Morocco, who just could not get decent pork there; or the the three tier chocolate ganache cake, fully decorated, that I shipped to Annapolis for a rehearsal dinner... and the groom cut it ceremoniously with his saber...Quite a show, and I only got to see the videos.
But back to the peas and greens, and I realize that being from California, my credentials for cooking such southern classics are dubious at best, but I have spent a long time learning this cooking trade, and my family does trace back to Kentucky and the Chattanooga area of Tennessee...so I guess I believe my version will work. I do make it in two versions, one with pork and the other vegetarian, because I wouldn’t want my vegetarian friends to miss out on some luck! I saute up some onions, celery and garlic until they are good and brown, deglaze with some white wine which I reduce down to concentrate the flavor, and then I put in the peas to cook slowly in the broth that I add, either with a ham hock or with some vegetarian stock I make. For the vegetarian version I usually add some chipotle chile in adobo which is a canned red smoked jalapeno pepper in some rich sauce...and what the heck I put some of that in the ham version also. I add in some diced red peppers, and some canned diced tomatoes and of course I simmer some greens in the mix, mustard and/or collards, but that is where the basic recipe ends and the creativity of each year comes in. I have added sherry or balasamic vinegar, parsley, thyme, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, basil, it may depend on the amount of cooking wine that goes in the pot and how much wine goes in the cook! Anyway, I let them simmer, adding some salt, pepper, and my favorite Mrs. Dash seasoning...tasting along the way to get them just right.
So some years I have canned them in nice jars with labels, and some years they just get put in containers and given away to customers and friends, and usually I keep a few in the freezer for some February luck. I hope that you use these ideas to make up your own version, and I wish everyone Happy Holidays and of course Lots of Luck in a very Happy New Year.