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Black-Eyed Peas, Hog Jowl, and More Lucky New Year's Foods

Victoria Lynn is an online writer who loves cooking and sharing her experiences with readers!

Traditional Southern New Year's Day meal: black-eyed peas, hog jowl, collard greens, and cornbread

Traditional Southern New Year's Day meal: black-eyed peas, hog jowl, collard greens, and cornbread

What Foods Are Lucky for the New Year?

There are a number of traditional foods cooked on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day around the world. Why are certain foods considered lucky? Many have to do with the color of money—or even the shape of money. Eating these lucky foods on New Year's is supposed to bring luck in the new year, particularly in the form of wealth.

In the South, the most common lucky New Year's Day meal consists of black-eyed peas, hog jowl, collard greens, and cornbread. I remember my mother occasionally upholding the New Year's Day tradition of black-eyed peas and hog jowl, but I don't think this tradition was honored in our household on a yearly basis. Maybe that's why I'm neither lucky nor wealthy.

Cornbread Represents Gold

Cornbread, likely for its money-related golden color, is also a lucky dish that complements the black-eyed peas. I usually mix up a box of Jiffy or other packaged cornbread, but you can easily make your own by following the recipe on the back of most containers of cornmeal.

Black-Eyed Peas Represent Coins

Black-eyed peas are the most common "lucky" food for New Year's in the Southern states. Why? Many say that beans are equated to coins, promising wealth and luck for the new year.

So, just to be safe, open up a can of black-eyed peas on New Year's Day. If you want to make them from scratch, buy dry black-eyed peas in the bag and make a simple recipe.

Black-Eyed Peas From Scratch

  • 1 (16-oz) bag of black-eyed peas
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • enough water to cover
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1 tsp. cumin (optional)

Cook on low in a slow cooker for 6-8 hours. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Hog Jowl Represents Riches

I don't even know if hog jowl (or pork jowl) can be purchased in other parts of the United States or even across the world, but it can always be found in the Southern United States—especially just before New Year's.

Hog jowl may not sound too appetizing, nor does it always look too appetizing in its raw state. Recently, I picked up a couple of packages of sliced hog jowl that looked pretty good, so I decided to try them both.

I can recall, as a child, eating hog jowl cooked right in the pot of black-eyed peas. This meat can be bought unsliced, basically as a huge ball of fatty bacon. Cooked up with black-eyed peas, it flavors the dish wonderfully but is not very appetizing to eat. Still, a cheap hog jowl (or even ham hocks) is worth getting for the purpose of flavoring, if nothing else.

This year I fried up several slices of hog jowl to try for my lucky New Year's meal. I had first bought a more expensive hickory-smoked pre-sliced package of pork jowl. It was a brand name: Petit Jean. When I saw some freshly cut hog jowl from the butcher later at the local grocery store, I picked up some of that, too. It had no special seasoning and was nearly one-third the price of the packaged pork jowl.

The results? As you can see from the photos, the freshly cut hog jowl kept its form and didn't shrink up quite so much. The more expensive stuff shriveled and curled up. It didn't taste any better than the other, either.

Pork jowl has an interesting flavor and texture. It's really like eating just the fatty part of bacon, but it's much thicker. I wouldn't want to eat it very often, as it is very rich and fattening, which is why this pork is considered lucky. Hog jowl is a rich piece of fatty meat from a rotund pig that wants for nothing. That's the best I can explain it.

Canned black-eyed peas and collard greens

Canned black-eyed peas and collard greens

Collard Greens Represent Money

Greens are easy to understand as a lucky New Year's Day food, as they are the color of money. In the South, collard greens are popular and plentiful, but other greens, such as mustard greens, spinach, or even cabbage, are acceptable.

Canned, frozen, or fresh greens will work as a side dish for the New Year's Day meal. Fresh greens can be cooked with a small amount of water, seasoned with salt and pepper, until tender, on the stove or in the crock pot. One of my favorites is cabbage in the slow cooker.

Hoppin John and Pot Likker Soup

Say what? Yeah, I've lived in the south all my life, and I have never heard of these two. Hoppin' john and pot likker soup? Hmm ...

Well, according to Wikipedia, hoppin' john combines bacon (or other pork), rice, and onions with black-eyed peas. Greens can be served with or even mixed in with the dish. Simply Recipes has a good-looking recipe for hoppin' john.

Pot likker (don't you just love the name?) is also called pot liquor or collard liquor. It is made from the juice leftover from making collard greens. Pork and seasonings are generally added to this vitamin-rich dish. Southern Living magazine has a recipe for pot likker soup.

This cornbread is fresh out of the oven!

This cornbread is fresh out of the oven!

More New Year's Traditions

Countries all over the world have their own traditions of foods considered to be lucky. Epicurious shares six common foods that are eaten for luck on New Year's all over the world, including pork, legumes, and greens. Please feel free to share your own New Year's Day food traditions in the comment section below.

While I'm not a superstitious person, I do like some traditions. Hey, just in case black-eyed peas, hog jowl, and collard greens do bring some luck, why not have some? I think I will.

Please pass the cornbread!