In Texas it’s good luck to eat black eyed peas on New Years. I don’t know why. Some light googling reveals two possible — but highly suspect — origins of the tradition:
- the union soldiers during General Sherman’s march to the sea in 1864 thought both black eyed peas and salt pork were animal food unworthy of destruction and southerners left in their wake felt “lucky” to be left with any food at all (a dubious theory that can be directly traced to the ever-reputable www.littlerock.about.com); or
- a very big mixup involving the mistranslation of the word for “fenugreek” on a Talmudic list of foods that are lucky during Rosh Hashana and a gang of southern Jews who imported the mistranslated “black eyed peas” tradition to January 1 by means of their large southern populations and pervasive influence on southern traditions (a theory that is so widely accepted, wikipedia does not even bother to provide citations).
Also possible that when I was a kid, my dad made of a pot of black eyed peas with bacon and jalapenos on New Year’s Day and I refused to eat it and in a desperate effort to get me to eat the dang food he told me it was lucky, and then it just sort of caught on. It seems at least as likely as the other theories.
Even if they’re not lucky (or if you are making them on a day that is not New Year’s Day because your favorite food blogger, er, got a little carried away on New Year’s Eve and didn’t quite feel up to posting this recipe on time) they’re dang delicious. Hearty and warm, with just the right amount of tang and kick from jalapenos both pickled and fresh, respectively.
- 8 oz bacon, chopped crosswise into ¼ inch pieces
- 2 jalapeños, diced
- ½ t cayenne pepper
- 1 t salt
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb dried black eyed peas, rinsed
- Pickled jalapeños, with juice
- Heat a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook until browned, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Remember if it's moving, it's not browning.
- Once the bacon is browned, add the jalapeño, cayenne pepper and salt and sauté until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
- Add the black eyed peas and remove from heat. Fill the pot with water until the peas are covered by about 2 inches of water.
- Return to heat and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook until tender, anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the peas.
- Add the pickled jalapeño juice a little at a time, to taste. Serve hot with sliced pickled jalapeños.