According to folklore in the southeastern part of the USA, black eyed peas are the first food that should pass your lips on New Year’s Day — at least, if you want luck and prosperity throughout the year ahead. (And who wouldn’t want that?!)
According to this article, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for the New Year has evolved into a number of variations and embellishments of the luck and prosperity theme, including:
- Served with greens (collards, mustard or turnip greens, which varies regionally), the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. In some areas, cabbage is used in place of the greens.
- Cornbread, often served with black-eyed peas and greens, represents gold. (See link to my favorite cornbread recipe below.)
- For the best chance of luck every day in the year ahead, one must eat at least 365 black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.
- Black-eyed peas eaten with stewed tomatoes (as here) represent wealth and health.
- In some areas, actual values are assigned with the black-eyed peas, representing pennies or up to a dollar each and the greens representing anywhere from one to a thousand dollars.
- Adding a shiny penny or dime to the pot just before serving is another tradition practiced by some. When served, the person whose bowl contains the penny or dime receives the best luck for the New Year, unless of course, the recipient swallows the coin, which would be a rather unlucky way to start off the year.
Black-eyed peas are the essential element to all these variations, and eating only the greens without the peas, for example, will not do the trick.
Here we’ve made a few Modern Mediterranean tweaks to update this delicious dish: we’ve replaced pork with smoked turkey (much more meaty and therefore provides more protein) and cook it in an Instant Pot, which speeds things up considerably and extracts maximum flavors from the ingredients.
We’ve stuck with the collard greens, but we cook them for just a minute just before serving to preserve their beautiful bright green color and nutritional value. And if you want to accompany it with cornbread, here’s a traditional, gluten-free recipe I love (I replace buttermilk with kefir; if you don’t tolerate dairy, you can replace it with a neutral-tasting, unsweetened plant milk, water or chicken bone broth).
New Year's black-eyed pea stew with smoked turkey
- 1½ cups black-eyed peas (dry) soaked for 12-24 hours
- 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 1 large onion diced
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced 4-5 cloves
- 2 medium carrots quartered lengthwise and cubed
- 3 medium celery sticks halved lengthwise and cubed
- 1 small green bell pepper diced
- 1½ lb turkey drumstick smoked
- 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes diced
- 1 tsp dried savory or 1 tbsp fresh savory
- 1 tsp dried sage or 1 tbsp fresh sage
- ½ tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh thyme
- ½ tsp dried oregano or 1 tsp fresh
- 2 bay leaves dried or fresh
- 4 cups chicken bone broth or water
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 8 oz collard greens washed, stripped off their stems and cut into 1-inch wide ribbons
- ½ cup fresh parsley coarsely chopped
- On the SAUTE, HIGH setting of the Instant Pot, warm the olive oil. Add the chopped onion, garlic, celery, carrots and green bell pepper and saute, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, beans, herbs, chicken bone broth or water (whichever using), salt and pepper to the pot and stir to combine.
- Add the turkey drumstick and push down to submerge it in the water. Lock the lid, cancel SAUTE setting and program to PRESSURE, HIGH for 20 minutes.
- Once the cooking time ends, switch the pressure valve to VENTING to release the remaining stem in the pot (cover valve with a towel to avoid getting sprayed with steam). Remove the lid. Using kitchen tongs, transfer the turkey drumstick to a plate to cool.
- Put the collard greens in the pot, stir them into the hot soup, lock the lid again and set to PRESSURE, HIGH for 1 minute. Again, shift the pressure valve to VENTING to release steam. Open the lid.
- While the collards are cooking, pull the meat from the turkey bone. Cut it into small pieces (taking care to remove all small bones and tendons).
- Once the collards are cooked, add the meat back into the stew and stir gently to combine. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with parsley and serve.
- Refrigerated in a tightly sealed container this keeps for 4-5 days in the fridge -- in fact, it gets better after a few days as all the flavors meld.