Recipe from Falling Off the Bone by Jean Anderson (Wiley, 2010)I call this my "lucky three soup" because it contains black-eyed peas, bitter greens, and pork, the three foods southerners eat on New Year's Day to ensure good luck, good health, and prosperity in the coming year. Some southerners choose turnip or mustard greens over collards for their traditional New Year's feast, but for this soup, I think collards are best. Put them in the pot at the start, or if you prefer crunchier collards, hold half of them back and add about thirty minutes before serving. I use country ham hocks for this soup because of their deep smoky/salty flavor, but "packing house" hocks are perfectly good. Whichever you choose, make sure there's "plenty of meat on them bones." Tip: Collards are easier to wash after they're trimmed and sliced. And here's a trick I learned from the Portuguese who've elevated collards to national dish status. Strip stems and coarse central ribs from each collard leaf (I simply cut down both sides of each rib with a sharp knife). Then working in batches, stack half a dozen leaves, roll into a fat cigar, and slice crosswise at half-inch intervals. For Caldo Verde (Green Soup), Portugal's national dish, women whisk razor-sharp knives back and forth across the collard rolls, freeing shreds as fine as baby's hair. Once all the collards have been sliced, wash by plunging gently up and down in a sink of cold water, then drain well. Note: Because of the saltiness of the ham, this soup may need no salt. But taste before serving and adjust as needed.
1. Drain black-eyed peas, rinse well, drain again, and set aside.
- 1 pound dried black-eyed peas, washed, sorted, and soaked overnight in enough cold water to cover
- 1/4 cup bacon drippings or vegetable oil
- 3 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 large bunch fresh collards (about 1 1/2 pounds), washed, trimmed, and sliced 1/2 inch thick (see Tip above)
- 2 1/2 pounds meaty smoked ham hocks (see headnote)
- 1 quart (4 cups) beef or chicken broth
- 1 quart (4 cups) cold water
- 12 black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce, or to taste
- Salt, if needed to taste (see Note above)
2. Heat drippings in a large heavy Dutch oven over moderately high heat until ripples appear on pan bottom - 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
3. Add onions and garlic and sauté, stirring often, until limp and lightly browned - about 10 minutes. Add collards and cook, stirring now and then, until wilted - about 5 minutes. Mix in black-eyed peas.
4. Anchor ham hocks in vegetables, add broth, water, and peppercorns, and bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust so liquid bubbles gently, cover, and simmer, stirring now and then, until black-eyed peas are tender and ham all but falls from bones - 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Note: Check pot now and then and if soup threatens to scorch, reduce burner heat to lowest point and slide a diffuser underneath pot.
5. Lift ham hocks to a cutting board and strip meat from bones. Add to soup along with hot pepper sauce to taste, and salt, if needed. Discard bones.
6. Ladle into heated soup plates and accompany with freshly baked corn bread or chunks of good country bread. Better yet, cool soup, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Next day, reheat and serve.
MAKES 6 TO 8 SERVINGS