Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Year's Day Hog Jowl

If you live in the South, you know come New Year's Day you better have a pot of black-eyed peas, hog jowl, turnip greens or cabbage and corn bread. Otherwise, you are staring the new year down and asking for bad luck, no blessings and a lack of money to come your way. The hog jowl comes from the cheek of the pig. It's pretty fatty and the rind is tough as nails. I personally cut that off, but Andy leaves it on when he's fixing it. The taste is very similar to bacon, but just short of as good.

One of our vendors gifted all of us with a bag of dried black-eyed peas and a chunk of hog jowl to cook in the peas. I can guarantee that I will be cooking that up for all who come to eat with us on Wednesday. Mike shared that his understanding of the tradition dates back to the civil war. He said the South was so poor that the only things they had to sustain themselves through the hard times were dried peas and the scraps off the pig.

There's an old belief that the bigger the pig you eat on New Year's Day, the fatter your wallet will be. Who am I to tempt fate? In the poor South, it was believed that a pig represented health and wealth. One pig could sustain a family through the hard winter months. Another fact is that a pig cannot turn his head around without turning his whole body around...so the pig is forward looking, possibly looking forward to a prosperous year.

During the war, black-eyed peas were considered animal food and not worthy of the Union troops. Therefore there was plenty of it. It is said that eating such a humble food on New Year's day will lead to being blessed.

The cabbage, collards or turnip greens represent your "green or folding money." It is said each bite of greens represents $1000 towards the upcoming year. Again, who am I to tempt fate?

Cornbread represents your pocket money because of the gold color of the bread.

About a week before the New Year, Andy hits the store and starts buying up several pounds of hog jowl. We always have it for breakfast at least once before the big day. We limit it because we know our blood pressure probably shoots sky high.

Hog jowl will curl up like crazy in the pan. Make little slits all down the "rind" side to make it easier to fry. I like to trim off the rind as there is no way to chew that up.
Fry up just like you would prepare bacon. I like to cook this on a medium-low temperature. Just look at the fat content and you can imagine how much grease is created. I also believe the grease from hog jowl is hotter and pops more than bacon. Fact or fiction? I don't know, just don't get "popped!"
Turn until both sides are cooked well. I like mine to be a little on the browner side. If the fat is undercooked, it's just too rubbery for me to eat. Let the hog jowl drain well on a paper towel lined plate.

This batch was served up with biscuits, fried eggs and molasses. On New Year's Day, we will be serving it with black-eyed peas, cabbage and cornbread.

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