Happy New Year!! It has been so cloudy and windy the past few days in Northern Virginia with extremely dark skies. I started the year off by making my way into the kitchen to cook up a batch of split pea soup with ham-bone left over from the Christmas feast. The tradition of many southerners, my mother included, women have always made black eyed peas (Hoppin’ John) at the start of the year. The peas are symbolic of coins so, a shiny penny is usually added to the pot and whoever receives the coin will have an economically successful year. The dish is also severed with greens, preferably collards which are suppose to add to one’s wealth since they are the color of money. My mom would add to the meal by cooking okra instead of the customary rice. Well…enough on the history of food!!!
I started the day by cooking the ham bone for several hours. It is imperative that you get the essence of the bone into that broth. While the meat fell off the bone and into the stew, I prepped the garlic, celery and onions to give an added flavor. Next the fresh ingredients were chosen from the garden; a bay leaf, rosemary and sage were added to the pot. While this magical brew simmered, another batch of celery, onion, carrot with white baby potatoes are cut into bit sized pieces and added. The potato lends a richness to the stew by thickening the broth. I have had split pea soup made by aunt’s and various friends of the family who are all excellent cooks. These women were renowned and very accomplished in the kitchen, but their broths were always a bit soupy. I like a bit of a bite to any of the food I prep!!!
With my twist of adding potatoes the soup was more like a velvety stew…absolutely delicious!!! I also made a quick batch of buttermilk cornbread to go with the meal. There is nothing better than a one pot meal. Clean up is easy and everyone gets a bit of vegetables with hearty ham in their serving.
Enjoy challenging, or should I say changing up established traditions. The idea is to stand firm in your beliefs, especially in your kitchen. Cook the dishes you are confident preparing, and you will turn out successful meals every time!!!