Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hogmanayummy: Pork and Beans

When last we parted, it was New Year's Day, I made Apple Crisp and zoomed up the road to my parents' house for dinner.

New Year's Dinner is Blacked Eyed Peas and Corn Bread.  

It's fairly traditional, all you southern folks know the good fortunes of ushering in a new year with the heavenly unctuousness of hog jowls. GingerMan enjoys it as our own sort of Hogmanay celebration. Pork, it's Good Luck and Good Sense for a Good Year.

All I remember is partaking of this venerated concoction on the First of January after we became a family nearly 35 years ago.  As we sat down to dinner this year, my father casually mentioned that my mother only learned the dish to make me feel at home because another branch of the family used to make it.  I have almost no memory of that family, and certainly no memory of this tradition, but my mom had apparently interrogated my dad about past holiday observances and devised a plan. A hammy, delicious plan.  Served with sweet cornbread and honey butter, ooooohhhhh yah.

There are many versions, this is another Certified Mom Recipe. The best runner-up looks to be Mark Bittman's from How To Cook Everything. He includes a discussion of the Bean Debate, one worth having.  We are always told beans should be soaked overnight, and since I had overnight to play with, I did it.  

But  his arguments for not soaking are compelling--no longer shall we be slaves to burdensome timing edicts! According to several sources, the unsoaked beans should just be added to the pot one half-hour earlier than the recipe states. Next time I will declare my freedom, trying Bittman's slightly different version, and adding the beans earlier in the process, without soaking, to see if this method, well, pans out.

So, behold, the Southerner's Delight, another dish from the back of a brain now writ somewhat large, according to this year's theme, Write It Down. May it bring you Good Luck and Good Eatin'!

New Year's Day Black Eyed Peas and Ham Hocks

2 Meaty Ham Hocks--Have your butcher "crack" or slice them in half so more of the marrow and gelatin renders, also it's easier to remove the meat from the bones.

Two Hocks, "Cracked"

32oz Black Eyed Peas *Soaked Overnight for this recipe
3 Medium Carrots
3 Stalks Celery
1 Medium Onion--Red is quite good here
8 Cups Water
2 tsp Dried Mustard Powder
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1. Place Ham Hocks, Carrots, Celery, Onion, Spices and Water into pot, raise to boil, then Simmer on Low-Medium for 1hr 15min

2. Add Peas, Simmer 1hr (or 1hr 45min for unsoaked)

3. Leaving Peas on Simmer, Remove Hocks to bowl. 
4. When cool to touch, remove meat from bones and add back to pot.

5. Simmer Peas and Ham until sauce is a thick, soup-like consistency.  How thick depends on how you will serve.  If you prefer to serve over cornbread, leave it a bit thinner.  If, like me, you like your cornbread on the side, by all means simmer it down a bit more to chowder-style  thickness. Keep in mind:  All the wonderful stuff which renders from the ham bones is also a wonderful thickener, so by tomorrow, if there is any left over, it will be well firmed up--do not reduce your peas down too much today! If you find it a bit dense after an overnight stay in the fridge, begin to warm it first, then add small amounts of water to restore the desired viscosity.  Small. Amounts.  The heat will also relax it, so let them work together.  This is a powerful lesson in gelling agents which will serve you any time you avail yourself of leftover bone-y goodness (beef, chicken, pork) for stocks, broths and soups--reduce carefully and reconstitute wisely!

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