January 1, 2013

New Year's Day Lucky Blackeye Pea Soup Recipe

Lucky Blackeye Pea Soup for New Year's
New Year's Day Blackeye Pea Soup
It brings luck!

There is a tradition in Texas that if you eat Blackeye Pea Soup on New Year's Day, you'll have good luck all year. Once I got started, I got all superstitious about it and couldn't quit. I was never a big fan of blackeyed peas, but I enjoyed this soup most every New Year's Day. When I first came to La Ceiba, it was dry red beans or canned black beans or nothing, but over the years, the variety of available beans has grown and we can get several kinds of beans and lentils now, mostly of the Goya brand.

Goya Balckeye Peas
When did a pound become 14 ounces?
I used to make this soup with smoked ham hocks which gave it a nice smokey flavor. Then I discovered Andouille sausage, which I absolutely love. The flavor goes very well with blackeye peas but we can't get either one here and I don't much like (or trust) Honduran sausage, having heard some bad stories. So trying to think of something to make a bean soup satisfying to my meat-lovin' husband, I decided to try plain, unsmoked pork hocks. El Jefe got a butcher to cut them but there was virtually no meat at all on them. Then J somehow left the bag of hocks out of the fridge all night. Yuck. I discovered them in the morning and the smell was off so out they went.

smoked pork chops and veggies
Smoked pork chops
El Jefe was desperate for meat in his soup. The only smoked meat I've seen is expensive imported hams or smoked pork chops so I said to go buy a couple of those if he had to have meat and I'd cut them up and add them to the soup. He came home with five pork chops, so... "Now we are having meat soup with beans!", I complained. Heheheh! Hondurans love their meat!

Goya and Doña Mari seasoning
The recipe was originally from a Dallas Morning News article, but like most recipes, I changed it up some. Blackeye peas, in my opinion, need some spicing up and I like more veggies than the original recipe called for. I used half chicken broth and half water seasoned with two packets of these Goya powdered bouillon and one of Doña Mari chicken consumé. I find that both of these have a more natural flavor and less salt than the bouillon cubes. This time I used some Cajun seasoning. Other times I've added a little minced jalapeño or chipotle, not to make it hot, just enough to add a little kick to it. Here is my recipe:

New Year's Day Blackeye Pea Soup

makes 5-6 quarts

14 oz. package of dried blackeye peas (about 2 cups)
4 tbsp. bacon fat (best) or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 leeks, sliced thin (optional)
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
4 stalks of celery, sliced
4 carrots, sliced (quartered lengthwise first if you are using fat Honduran carrots)
8 cups of chicken broth or water with chicken bouillon, or a mixture
2 tsp. dried thyme, divided use
3 tsp. Cajun seasoning, or to taste
1 tsp. peppercorns
2 smoked ham hocks or ham cut into bite sized chunks or smokey-type sausages or 2-3 smoked pork chops
2 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes, or fresh, chopped
1 large bell pepper or other mild chile, chopped
1/2 to 1 tsp. hot pepper flakes, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Sort through the dried peas and throw out any bad ones. Rinse the peas and soak overnight or at least 4-6 hours. I always throw out the floaters. Cover with water at least 2 inches above the peas as they will almost double in size after soaking.

saute the veggiesHeat the bacon fat or oil in a large stock pot. Add onions and a sprinkling of salt and cook over low heat about 5 minutes. Add the leeks, garlic, and celery and continue cooking until tender. You can also add the carrots now but I usually only add a few and wait to add the rest so they still have some bite in the finished soup.

Stir in the broth, the soaked and rinsed peas, 1 tsp. thyme, Cajun seasoning, and peppercorns. Check the seasoning. It may not need more salt at all, especially if you used bouillon or will be using smoked meat. Add the meat if you are using it. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 40-45 minutes total, skimming off any foam that develops, until the peas are tender. If your peas are older, it could take longer. After about the first 10 minutes, add carrots. Add chiles during the last 5-10 minutes.

Pull out the ham hocks or smoked pork chops if you used them and allow them to cool slightly. Remove the meat from the bones, cut it into chunks, and put the meat back into the soup. If you are using sausages, pull them out and slice into rings before adding back to the soup. Reheat the soup and add the last teaspoon of thyme and the pepper flakes. Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste.

This soup is traditionally served with corn bread.


Blackeye Pea Soup with Smoked Pork
Blackeye Pea Soup for New Year's Day

For a vegetarian version, skip the bacon fat, use olive oil and vegetable broth, and skip the ham hocks or substitute some fake meat. I bet it will be almost as good.

I have an unofficial rule that as long as you eat this soup sometime in the first five days of the year, you'll still have good luck all year. ;-)

And I hope you all have a wonderful and lucky New Year whether you try my soup or not!

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