Traditional Lucky Foods to Eat at New Year's (With Recipes)
New Year is very often a time not only of tradition but of superstition. People will make New Year's resolutions, toast the health and well-being of their families as the midnight chimes sound and engage in a wide variety of established rituals in the fledgling hours and days of the new calendar.
It should hardly be surprising that food can often play a big part in New Year traditions and that it is considered lucky to eat certain foods at this time of year in the hope that they will bring future well-being and prosperity.
My Favorite Lucky New Year's Recipes
This page looks at some of the foods that are considered lucky around the world when eaten at the very beginning of the year and some delicious ways in which to prepare and serve them on the big occasion.
Roasted Pork Shank With Fermented Cabbage (Schweinhax'n mit Sauerkraut)
Roast pork from a foraging, forward-thrusting pig is deemed to be one of the luckiest foods to eat at New Year. This is a pork shank, cooked and served in a way that is particularly popular in Germany. It is served with fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) which represents luck as green vegetable leaves represent money.
- 2- to 3-pound pork shank (hock)
- 1 pint fresh chicken stock
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Sauerkraut (quantity as desired)
- Put your oven on to preheat to maximum, likely to be around 475˚F/240˚C.
- This step is not essential, but you may wish to cut through the skin and fat of the pork, to help it shrink and crisp up during cooking. Do this by cutting with a very sharp knife on either side of the flatter side of the shank.
- Heat the chicken stock in a pot until it just begins to simmer.
- Lay the pork shank on a roasting tray and pour over around half a pint of the stock, keeping the rest in reserve.
- Season well with sea salt and black pepper.
- Place the roasting tray into the oven and cook for 20 minutes. This initial high heat will start to crisp up the skin.
- After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350˚F/180˚C and cook for a further 2 hours.
- Baste the pork every 20 minutes or so. You may need to use some of the reserved stock.
- Remove the pork from the oven and stick a skewer in to ensure the juices run clear.
- Rest uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Serve with sauerkraut, widely available from delis or supermarkets in glass jars.
Roast Ham With Black Eyed Peas and Sauteed Savoy Cabbage
This should be an exceptionally lucky New Year meal. It is comprised of three different ingredients which are all considered to bring good fortune at this time of year. The ham represents the pig meat, the black-eyed peas are the legumes (representing coins) and the Savoy cabbage is the green vegetable leaves.
Ingredients per Person
- 2 slices of roast ham
- 3 Savoy cabbage leaves
- 2 tablespoons black-eyed peas
- 1 clove of garlic
- 4 or 5 chestnuts (optional)
- 1 tablespoon applesauce
- Sea salt and black pepper
Roast the Ham
This 2-pound piece of boneless ham should provide enough for 3 or 4 people. It would be normal perhaps to stud it with cloves and baste it with honey for cooking. Sometimes, however, allowing only the natural flavours to come through can pay great dividends. In this instance, the ham is simply seasoned with black pepper, enough salt already being present from the curing process.
- Preheat your oven to 400˚F/200˚C.
- Lay the ham skin side up on a large sheet of tinfoil in a roasting tray.
- Wrap securely but loosely and bake for 2 hours, uncovering the ham for the last 20 minutes to allow a little colour to develop.
- When the ham is removed from the oven, it should be rested uncovered for a minimum of 15 minutes before being carved.
Cook the Chestnuts
If you have leftover chestnuts from Christmas, they will go very well with the Savoy cabbage. They should be cooked while the ham is roasting.
- Make a small cut in each side and simmer in boiling salted water for 10 minutes.
- Drain well and peel as soon as they are cool enough to handle.
- Cover and set aside until required.
Saute the Cabbage
- Roughly shred the Savoy cabbage leaves.
- Peel and finely slice the garlic.
- Bring a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil up to a fairly high heat in a small frying pan and sautee the cabbage and garlic for 5 or 6 minutes until softened.
- Add the chestnuts for the final minute or so, simply to heat through.
The black-eyed peas are from a can and should be gently heated for a few minutes before being drained. The ham can then be carved and the meal served.
Traditional Fish and Chips With Peas
Fish is considered lucky to eat at New Year for a number of reasons. Silverfish scales are seen to be symbolic of money and the preservation techniques employed with fish such as cod and herring, by salting and pickling, has allowed food to be preserved for times of shortage. Unfortunately, Atlantic cod in modern times is a desperately endangered species so this recipe for traditional fish and chips employs whiting (also called English whiting), a delicious and sustainable alternative.
Ingredients per Person
- 1 large baking potato
- 1 large or 2 small skinned whiting fillets
- 2 or 3 tablespoons plain/all purpose flour
- Cold water as required
- 2 tablespoons frozen or canned peas
- 2 teaspoons tartar sauce (optional)
- Lemon wedge and parsley sprig to garnish
Make the Chips
It is necessary to start the chips first.
- Peel the potato(es) and add to a pot of cold water.
- Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Drain, cool and refrigerate in a plastic dish for 30 minutes.
- Dry on a clean tea towel and deep fry at 300˚F/150˚C for 5 minutes.
- Drain on kitchen paper, cover and allow to cool.
- Refrigerate again for a further 30 minutes.
Make the Batter
- Add the flour to a plastic dish and season with salt.
- Slowly add cold water, whisking with a fork or hand whisk to make a smooth batter that has the consistency of thick paint or cream.
- Cover and refrigerate for half an hour.
Fry the Chips and Whiting
These small whiting fillets will take around 5 minutes to deep fry, in oil around 350˚F/170˚C. The chips also have to be given a second fry at the same temperature for a similar time period. A twin-basket deep-fat fryer would be a big asset at this time, but if you only have a small fryer, plan to fry the fish first and keep it warm in a low oven on a heated plate while the chips cook.
- Dredge each whiting filling in the chilled batter and hold it above the dish for a few seconds to allow the excess to drip off before carefully lowering it into the hot oil.
- Drain the whiting and chips on kitchen paper.
- Heat the canned or frozen peas per instructions on packaging.
- Serve with optional lemon wedge, parsley sprig and tartar sauce.
Fresh Fruit Platter With Camembert Cheese
Fresh fruits of a great many different types are considered lucky to eat at New Year in different countries around the world. One of the more popular in this respect is grapes, particularly in Spain, Portugal and other Spanish cultures. A grape will often be eaten for each stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.
The added beauty of eating fresh fruit at New Year is that there is no preparation or cooking required. The fruits can either be eaten on their own, or perhaps with a selection of cheeses at a buffet party. This camembert and mixed fruit platter is but one of a virtually infinite number of serving suggestions.
It is worth also remembering that if you are perhaps feeling a little bit "delicate" on New Year's Day following a late night's celebrating, fresh fruit can be an excellent way of getting plenty much needed Vitamin C into your system.
What About Unlucky New Year Foods?
Although this page is about foods considered lucky to eat at New Year, there are certain foods that are considered unlucky in this way. These foods are often less popular anyway and it's good to note that far greater emphasis is generally placed on the positives. It is, however, worth mentioning one extremely popular foodstuff widely considered to be unlucky to eat at New Year and that is chicken.
Theories as to why chicken should be unlucky at New Year range from the fact that chickens in the farmyard or barn scratch backwards, thus focus is placed on looking back the way instead of forwards, to the fact that chickens have wings and could cause your otherwise obtained good fortune to simply fly away.
Wishing You a Very Happy New Year!
Thank you for visiting this page. I hope it has not only given you a few ideas for lucky foods at New Year but that any you try do indeed bring you good fortune. If you have any favourite lucky New Year food ideas not featured here, please share them in the space just a little bit further down this page.
Firstly, however, it is only fitting that this page should conclude with a song . . .
© 2011 Gordon Hamilton