Culinary adventures: tamales, pork, vegetables among New Year’s food traditions

Culinary adventures: tamales, pork, vegetables among New Year’s food traditions

Over the years my family has celebrated New Years Day in several different states.

Each state has a different opinion on what to eat for the first meal of the year. When we lived in northern West Virginia, we were told to eat pork and sauerkraut (a fermented cousin of cabbage).

In eastern North Carolina, we made ham, black-eyed peas, and collard greens.

Black-eyed peas symbolize wealth, as do green ones. The pig is considered a sign of prosperity in some cultures because pigs root forward, according to SpruceEats.

We have also added cornbread to the mix multiple times as the corn kernels represent coins. I was raised by New York natives so I prefer sweet cornbread, even though I’m starting to love regular cornbread.

Some natives of eastern North Carolina still eat salted herring and oysters for New Years. Herring was abundant in the area until it was overfished and is slowly making a comeback. Oysters are harvested in North Carolina during the fall / winter months. The fish symbolizes luck. lists seven lucky dishes served around the world for the New Year. I like that some of these dishes incorporate several different symbols of prosperity. I have included recipes for New Years meals below.

We hope you enjoy your culinary adventures!

Hoppin ‘john
This southern staple, usually a mixture of peas, rice, and pork, originated with enslaved Africans in the United States in the 19th century.

The first time John Hoppin’s name was known to have appeared in print, according to The New York Times, was in the novel Recollections of a Southern Matron in 1838. Often served with collard greens and cornbread, some historians of the Food attribute the dish’s unusual name to an adopt “pois pigeons”, which is French for dried peas and is pronounced “paw-peejohn”, which may have sounded like “hoppin ‘John” to English speakers.

King Cake
Louisiana and Mardis Gras fans start the year with a sweet ringed cake topped with colorful frosting and sprinkles and baked with a trinket, like a plastic baby, hidden inside. The lucky person who finds the trinket is called the “king” or “queen” of the day.

Bakeries in New Orleans and across the country begin selling the treats in early January through Fat Tuesday. They are traditionally eaten on January 6, known as Twelfth Night or Epiphany, the Catholic celebration of gifts from the Magi to the infant Jesus on the twelfth night after his birth.

Similarly, vasilopita, served in Greece and Cyprus, is often baked with a coin in it and served on New Years Day. Other versions can be found in Spain (rosca de reyes), Portugal (bola-re) and France (gateau de rois).

Tamales, packets of dough stuffed with meat, wrapped in corn husks and steamed, have come to symbolize family, as generations often gather in the kitchen to prepare labor-intensive food. In Mexico, the Christmas season runs from December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to January 6, the day of the Three Kings.

Soba noodles
Soba noodles symbolize a long and healthy life. Welcoming the year with toshikoshi soba, a buckwheat noodle soup that “crosses the year,” is a Japanese New Year’s Eve tradition steeped in tradition and now practiced in the United States. Long, thin noodles symbolize a long and healthy life, dating back to the 13th or 14th century, “when a temple or a wealthy lord decided to treat the hungry population to soba noodles on the last day of the year.”

12 lucky grapes
The Spanish tradition, the twelve grapes of luck, also known as the 12 grapes of luck, holds that eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, one for each chime of the clock, will bring good luck next year.

Each grape means a month. According to superstition, not finishing all 12 on time will spell misfortune in the coming year.

Italian New Year’s Eve parties include a dish that is said to bring especially good luck: lentils. Round and shaped like a coin, they are a symbol of prosperity and are often served with pork sausage.

Pickled herring
The symbol of fertility, longevity and generosity (plus the color silver represents fortune), fish is a popular New Year’s Eve dish in many cultures, and especially those of Scandinavian, German and Polish descent.

Pork and sauerkraut
While Southerners like hoppin ‘John, those who live in parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio relish slow-cooked pork and sauerkraut on New Years Day. The dish is said to bring good luck and progress because pigs are known to root or advance, while sauerkraut is made from cabbage, which is tied to symbolic wealth and prosperity and long life thanks to its long strands.

New year pretzel
German-Americans who don’t eat pork and sauerkraut on January 1 are probably enjoying a special New Years pretzel. The German good luck symbol is sweeter than savory, topped with a glaze instead of salt, and is often served at breakfast or brunch.

Vasilopita cake.


1 cup of butter
2 cups of white sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
6 eggs
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees Fahrenheit)
½ teaspoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup blanched sliced ​​almonds
2 tablespoons of white sugar

■ Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 10-inch round cake pan.
■ In a medium bowl, whisk together butter and sugar until light. Add the flour and mix until the mixture is floury.
■ Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Combine baking powder and milk, add to mixture, mix well.
■ Then combine the lemon juice and baking soda, mix with the batter.
■ Pour into prepared cake pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
■ Remove and sprinkle walnuts and sugar over cake, then return to oven for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. Bake the cake until it comes back to the touch.
■ Carefully poke a small hole in the cake and place a quarter in the hole. Try to cover the hole with sugar. Chill cake on wire rack for 10 minutes before inverting onto plate.
■ Serve the cake warm.


3 ½ cups of masa flour
2 ¼ cups hot water
10 oz. (1 1/3 cups) lard or shortening, slightly softened
2 teaspoons of salt
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

2 poblano chiles
2 Anaheim peppers (jalapeños can be used)
1 cup cooked shredded chicken
24 oz. grated Monterey Jack cheese (6 cups)
1 package (6 oz) dried corn husks

■ In a small bowl, combine the masa flour and hot water.
■ In a large bowl, beat the butter, salt, and baking powder with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 1 minute. In 3 additions, beat the flour mixture. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium-low; whisk in 1 cup of the broth. Whisk in more broth until a smooth but not runny dough forms.
■ Refrigerate for 1 hour.
■ Meanwhile, place corn husks in large bowl; cover with lukewarm water. Soak leaves for 30 minutes or until pliable.
■ While corn husks are soaking, grill chiles under broiler, turning occasionally, until all sides are charred. Place the charred chilies in a resealable plastic bag or bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let them rest for 15 minutes.
■ Peel skin from roasted chili peppers; remove the seeds. Rinse the chilies under cold water. Coarsely chop; place in another large bowl. Add chicken and cheese; mix well.
■ If desired, cut 20 strips (1/8 inch wide) of corn husks to wrap and tie each tamale before steaming.
■ To make each tamale, place 1-2 corn husks flat on a work surface. (If you use 2, overlap them slightly.) Using a butter knife, spread about 3 tablespoons of the masa to cover about 2/3 of the corn husk. Pour 1-2 tablespoons of filling in the center. Fold 2 edges in half lengthwise; curl the edge and tuck the edges under themselves to seal. Fold the bottom end up about 1 inch.
■ Working in batches, use a large steamer or collapsible vegetable steamer placed in a large, deep saucepan of boiling water. Place tamales, open end up, in steamer. Cover; Steam 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours or until tamales can be easily peeled from the corn husks.

New Hoppin ‘John in slow cooker. Betty Crocker Kitchens


2 smoked pork hocks (about 1 1/4 lb)
1 ¾ cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon dried onion, minced
2 cans (15.8 oz each) black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
½ pound smoked sausage, cut in half lengthwise and then cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
½ cup uncooked instant rice

■ Spray a 3 1/2 to 4 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place the pork hocks in a slow cooker. Add 1 cup of broth. Refrigerate the remaining broth. Top the pork with the onion, peas, and sausage.
■ Cover; simmer 8 to 10 hours.
■ Remove the pork from the pot; place on a cutting board. Scoop meat off bones with 2 forks; discard bones, skin and fat. Return the pork to the pot. Add the remaining broth and rice. Increase the temperature to high. Cover; cook 10 minutes or until rice is tender.

Pork and sauerkraut. Betty Crocker Kitchens


1 can (16 oz.) Sauerkraut, undrained
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
¾ cup onion, minced
½ cup of water
¼ cup raw barley
6 pork loin or rib chops, 3/4 inch thick
½ cup prepared barbecue sauce

■ Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
■ In an ungreased 2-quart casserole or 11 × 7-inch glass baking dish, combine sauerkraut, carrots, onion, water, and barley.
■ Place the pork chops on top of the sauerkraut mixture. Pour the barbecue sauce on top of the chops. Cover and bake 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until the pork is no longer pink in the center.

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