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Cooking to Welcome the New Year

 
Collard Greens

 

Here we are about to put another year in the books. How can 365 days pass by so quickly? Wait, we're referring to 2020; it couldn't pass fast enough! With the New Year just hours away, it's time to take steps toward a year filled with good luck.  

Let's start things off with the New Year's Eve countdown. In some ways, the night won't be the same without Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. Here's a link to his last New Year's Eve broadcast from 1976-77. It was on CBS, and 1976/77 was the 48th year that his band played Auld Lang Syne via a broadcast, either radio or television, to welcome the New Year.

While you're listening to the band and the clock is striking 12, you'll want to open all of the doors and windows to let out any bad luck that has made your house its home over the last year. You don't have to leave them open long. It helps if you make some loud noises to hasten bad luck and perhaps even the Devil, rumor has it he doesn't like loud sounds, out of the house. 

It's morning, a new day, and a New Year. Let's make sure to start it off right by shouting out first thing, "Rabbit, rabbit." Folklore holds that rabbits bring good luck and by making these the first words you speak for the new month or New Year, you'll have it the whole month/year long.

Time to begin working on the menu for the day. A traditional meal will include ham or some other type of pork, black-eyed peas or another bean or pea, and greens, which could be collards or cabbage. You might also want to add in some cornbread. Each of these is very important in order to have good luck in the coming year.

Pork is on the menu because a hog is always rooting forward – it doesn't dig or scratch backward like a chicken or stand still like cattle. Black-eyed peas or lentils look like small coins and grow when cooked, just like one hopes a financial nest egg will increase in value. Greens also symbolize economic fortune and resemble folding money or greenbacks. Cornbread represents gold bars, so eating it is another way to increase your wealth.

To help you get started with your meal preparations, we're sharing a recipe from one of our favorite cookbook authors, Sheri Castle: 

Southern Skillet Greens 

1 1/2 lb. quick-cooking greens, tough stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
2 thick bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, if needed
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 teaspoon granulated sugar or firmly packed light brown sugar
1 small dried hot chili or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Hot pepper vinegar, for serving
 
Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt per cup of water. Add the greens and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or strainer to immediately transfer the greens into the ice water to stop the cooking and set the color. Drain well and squeeze out as much water as possible. Use the cooked greens soon or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
 
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it renders its fat and is crispy, stirring often, about 10 minutes. If the bacon does not render at least 2 tablespoons fat, stir in the olive oil. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, sugar and chili and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. (The whole chili will give mild heat and can be discarded before serving. Crushed flakes are a commitment to heat, but the amount can be adjusted to taste.)
 
Add the greens and cook, tossing with tongs, until glossy and warmed through, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm with hot pepper vinegar on the side. Serves 4.

Watch for Sheri on a new show on UNC Public TV this coming year. It's called Cooking at Home with Sheri Castle. Each episode will introduce viewers to North Carolina ingredients and exciting recipes they can easily replicate at home. She also takes viewers throughout the state to meet farmers, growers, chefs and home cooks. Sheri grew up in Boone, NC and is a Southern food historian. We think you'll enjoy this series. We're not exactly certain when it will launch, so follow the UNC TV link to check it out.

Wishing you and your family a very happy and prosperous New Year!

Originally posted December 2014. Updated December 29, 2020.


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