By Angela McRae, The Shopper Kitchen
Do you eat the traditional Southern foods on New Year’s Day each year? I grew up in a home that faithfully observed the New Year’s food traditions, which included eating collard greens and black-eyed peas to ensure prosperity.
In the book “Collards: A Southern Tradition from Seed to Table,” Edward H. Davis and John T. Morgan write, “We boldly conjecture that a forkful of collards contains more Southern history than any other bite.” They say collards were eaten in the Southern colonies by the time of the American Revolution, and they note that collards have been appreciated by Southerners including Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr.
But why do we eat collards at New Year’s? Davis and Morgan say, “The New Year’s Day tradition of eating collards and black-eyed peas is said to derive from the notion that eating foods that look like money (dollar bills and pennies) may help bring riches in the coming year.”
I personally don’t mind cooking the ones straight from my dad’s garden and filling up the house with their scent, but I don’t always have access to fresh collard greens on January 1. So today, I simply head for the freezer aisle at the grocery store and buy a few bags of frozen collards to see me through.
Now I recognize that collard haters exist. I feel sorry for them. And in the interest of their financial well-being, I want to help them. Here’s a way to get some collards into folks who insist they don’t like collards.
Years ago, I came across a recipe for a turnip green dip in Southern Living and made quite a few tweaks to it. The result quickly became my favorite New Year’s dish. If you want to go all Southern fancy, bake some cute cornbread sticks and serve them along with the dip as a fun appetizer as you entertain throughout January.
Hot Collard Dip
5 bacon slices
1 small onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup white grape juice
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen chopped collards, thawed
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, cut into squares
1 (8-ounce) carton sour cream
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook bacon in a large pot until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels, reserving a tablespoon or so of drippings in pot. Sauté onion and garlic in drippings for 3 to 4 minutes, then add white grape juice and cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring well. Add collards, cream cheese, sour cream, pepper flakes, salt and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Cook, stirring often, until cream cheese is melted and mixture is thoroughly heated. Garnish with crumbled bacon and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese before serving. You can also heat this in a slow cooker on low if you’d like to keep it warm for a New Year’s party or one of the football playoff games. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!