Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A New Year's Tradition - Ham-hocks and Collard Greens

Every year on New Years Day my father cooks up some good old fashioned collard greens, ham-hocks and black eyed peas. As most of you know, black eyed peas are a traditional good luck food for the New Year for reasons no one really knows. There are multiple theories out there but no definite conclusions. This recipe, my father has had for as long as I can remember and I'm pretty sure goes back in his mind as long as he remembers - back to his time in Mississippi as a young boy in the 40's. Yes, my father was born in 1940, but he doesn't look a day older than being born in 1960. It's quite annoying really.

Anyway, point is - this is a family recipe and one that I'm quite proud of. It is a recipe that my father makes with fresh collard greens from his own garden, smoked ham-hocks that we'll just say come from the family ranch down the street called Raley's, and black eyed peas that come from a place called a can (or you can use dried beans if you wish).

You are lucky this year, this 2011 that we now inhabit, because I am sharing this simple recipe with you without anything demanded in exchange. Now, I'm not so naive as to think that this recipe does not exist out there in the universe without me putting it up on this blog. I'm just saying, it's cooler when you can cook this recipe in your kitchen while envisioning Senior Mr. FoodSnob DC making it throughout the years. We'll call him Mr. Greens for the purpose of this post. I don't want to reveal his actual identity for fear of over-popularity. He has enough of that already.

So, the recipe goes like this:


6-10 collard green stalks
1 can of black eyed peas (purchased from the market by your eldest daughter)
2 ham-hocks (instead of Raley's, let's do this upscale style and purchase them from your neighborhood butcher market, ours is called S&S)
6 cups water
1 whole yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons soy bean paste (optional)
1 jalapeno


  1. OK! Now! Turn the football game on! Do it! Get comfortable and put a big smile on your face.
  2. Get your bathrobe on! It's cold out there! Go pick some collard greens - about 6-10 stalks!
  3. Fill a large soup pot with your 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add your ham-hocks and lower the stove temperature to medium. 
  4. Let the ham-hocks cook in the water for about 45 minutes. During those 45 minutes do the following:
    • chop up your onion in thin slices
    • mince your garlic
    • wash the greens - put the greens in a big pot and soak them in water with 2 tablespoons baking soda (this supposedly helps wash the dirt off the greens more easily)
    • chop up your greens in 1 inch slices
    • wash the canned black eyed peas and drain
    • sit down, relax, and watch the game
  5. Add the onion, greens, garlic and bean paste (optional), cook on medium for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  6. Tell your daughter to stop asking about when dinner will be ready, tell her to relax! 
  7. Add the beans. Break off the meat from the ham-hocks with a large spoon. Cook on medium for half an hour.
  8. Now, get some big soup bowls and your family and dig in!
  9. Happy New Year!!!!
Ta da!!!!

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