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Posted by Ori Yair-Levy on Thursday, December 29th, 2016 at 1:51pm.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of New Year’s Eve? Most might say, resolutions or champagne toasts with midnight kisses, but a true Texan will be quick to tell you, the new year isn’t the new year without a hearty plateful of black-eyed peas.

Why, you ask? For wealth!

There’s a belief in the south, that if you eat poor on New Year’s Day, you’ll be rich for the rest of the year. Apparently, back in the Civil War days, the peas were not worthy of General Sherman's Union troops. When Union soldiers raided the Confederates food supplies, legend says, they took everything except the peas and salted pork. The Confederates considered themselves lucky to be left with those meager supplies, and survived the winter. Thus, peas became symbolic of luck.

There are many myths on how the tradition of black-eyed peas on New Year’s came to be. While others say that since the south has generally always been the place for farming, legumes are just a good thing to celebrate with in the winter. Not many crops grow this time of the year, but black-eyed peas hold up well, were cheap and just make sense. But, even further back, the tradition dates as far as ancient Egypt. According to Wikipedia, during the time of the Pharaohs, it was believed that eating a meager food like black-eyed peas showed humility before the gods, and you would be blessed. To this day, faithful Jews eat black-eyed peas on Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year).

So, how do we eat the peas? According to tradition, some believe you should cook them with a new dime or penny, or add it to the pot before serving. The person who receives the coin in their portion will be extra lucky. Others say you should eat enough peas for all the days of the year on New Year's day. If you eat any less, you'll only be lucky for that many days.

There’s also a saying that if you eat only the black-eyed peas and skip the meat, greens, and corn bread, “the luck won't stick.” That they all work together or not at all.

So, if you’re new to Texas or just want to give your home a hearty dose of Southern luck this New Year, here’s a traditional recipe for black-eyed peas from Food Network.


Happy New Year!

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas (fresh or canned black-eyed peas can be substituted)

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 6 ounces pork shoulder, diced into 1/2-inch cubes

  • 4 strips thick sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1 medium onion, small diced

  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 4 cups chicken stock

  • 2 cups water

  • 3 bay leaves

  • Hot-pepper vinegar, as desired


Directions

If using dried black-eyed peas, put them in a large pot and cover with about 4 inches of water. Soak the peas overnight, then drain the water and rinse. Alternatively, you can "quick-soak" the peas by bringing them and the water to a boil for 2 minutes. After this, remove them from the heat, cover the pot and soak the peas for 1 hour. Then, drain and rinse the peas.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the pork. Sear until the pork is browned on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the bacon, onion and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, until the onion and garlic are lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the salt, black pepper, cayenne and garlic powder. Cook until the entire mixture is coated with the spices, about 2 minutes. Pour in the stock and water and drop in the bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.

When the pork begins to fall apart, add the prepared peas to the pot and simmer until the peas are very soft, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

(Cooks Note: Using the back of a spoon, smash some of the peas against the inside of the pot then stir them into the mixture. This will break up some of the peas and give them a creamier consistency. Alternatively, you can puree 1 cup of the peas and broth in a blender or a food processor, then return the puree to the pot.)

Taste for seasonings, and add some hot-pepper vinegar, if desired. Discard the bay leaves and transfer the black-eyed peas to a serving bowl.

Recipe courtesy of The Neelys

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