This holiday guest post is brought to us from the South!
I reck’n many of y’all know that Southern tradition holds that you serve these little legumes on New Year’s day as a symbol of good luck. We southerners believe that this tradition originated during the War of Northern Aggression (That’s the Civil War to you Yankees). The story I got from my Gammy was that the Blue Bellies raided Confederate food stores and took everything except these beans thinking they were horse feed. The troops felt lucky to have anything to eat at all.
What I have come to learn is that the tradition of these little good luck beans was recorded in the Babylonian Talmud (500 C.E.) where it is stated that black-eye’d peas are to be eaten on Rosh Hashanah. According to Wikipedia, the tradition was likely passed into southern tradition by Sephardi Jews that landed in Georgia in the 1730’s. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-eyed_pea)
Honestly, I never much cared for this tradition. The way my Grammy made them tasted a lot like paste, but without the rich flavor (sorry, Grams). As a sucker for tradition I have tried many variations to satisfy my palate as well as my desire to appease my ancestor’s roots. I finally found one that I actually enjoy:
1 pound dried black-eyed peas
1 tablespoon kosher salt
12 ounces uncooked turkey bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2-3 tsp minced garlic
1 medium yellow onion, diced (optional)
8-ounce tomato sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup prepared mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
12 oz. can of beer
black pepper (to taste)
2 shots Tequila
Rinse the black-eye’d peas in a colander under cold water picking out any cracked peas. Place the beans in a large enough bowl to cover the beans with at least 3 in. of water. Let it sit at least 8 hours, but I generally leave overnight.
In the morning I drain the beans and place into the crock pot. Then cook the turkey bacon, but not too much, you want it slightly undercooked (about 3 minutes on a hot skillet). Add garlic and onion and cook an additional 30 sec-1 min. Transfer turkey bacon, onion, and garlic to crock pot.
Add salt, tomato sauce, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and chicken broth. I also add in 2 shots of Tequila. It really does nothing to the flavor and all the alcohol evaporates, but this dish is about tradition. Each generation should not just honor tradition, but also contribute to it. The first shot is to say farewell to the previous year. The second is to welcome in the new year. I also never like anyone to drink alone, so feel free to take 2 shots for yourself (a little hair of the dog). Set the slow cooker to high and stagger away.
Check your beans in about 6 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning to make it as spicy as you like. Let cook an additional 2 hours. You want the beans tender but not mushy; almost al dente. Season the beans a last time with salt and some black pepper.
Happy new year, y’all!