I don’t care where she is, Mom will find a way to have her traditional hog jowl and peas (for luck), her cooked greens (for prosperity) and accompanying corn bread for New Year’s Day. I remember the time we were all in Hawaii between Christmas and New Year’s and Mom slipped a package of black-eyed peas, several cans of greens, and cornbread fixin’s in her suitcase. We managed to find a piece of pork, and I’ll never forget sitting in our Waikiki Beach condo overlooking the Pacific Ocean and eating a make-shift Southern New Year’s Day feast. I don’t think it ever tasted better than that year.
After Christmas I’m heading to visit Mom, my cousins Gwen and Patricia, and my Aunt Dot in Montgomery. Mom and my cousin Gwen living in a lovely condominium with a small kitchenette overlooking a tree-lined property, where I’ll make this dish and a big basket of corn muffins. It may not be quite as good as Waikiki Beach, but I know the gratitude of being together will make up the difference.
Hoppin’ John Soup with Kale
You can substitute a one pound package of frozen kale for the fresh, if you like.
1 pound black eyes peas
1 meaty ham bone or ham hock
2 quarts chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, cut into medium dice
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
6 packed cups washed, stemmed and torn kale leaves
4 cups cooked rice, your choice
Soak peas in 1 1/2 quarts water seasoned with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt until plump, 6 hours or overnight. Drain.
Meanwhile, bring 3 quarts water and ham to simmer over medium-high heat in large soup kettle. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until ham starts to pull away from the bone and a fork stuck in the meat comes out with some resistance, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove ham from soup and shred when cool enough to handle; discard bone and rind. Strain broth and add enough chicken broth to equal 2 quarts.
Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add onions, sauté until they soften and start to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add thyme, broth, peas, and reserved ham; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; continue to simmer, partially covered, until peas are tender, 1 1/2 hours.
When ready to serve, add remaining quart of broth and return to a simmer. Add kale; continue to cook until wilted but still bright green, about 5 minutes longer. Serve.