Wednesday, January 1

New Years Day Lunch

One of the greatest gifts my grandmother ever gave me was the cookbook, Home for the Holidays, written by her good friend, Mescal Johnson.

It's a guide to traditional southern cooking the author describes as "A Festive Country Cookbook." The book separates its recipes into seasons and occasions, and her New Year's Day lunch menu is one of my favorites.

Hog Jowl with Black-eyed Peas
French-Fried Onion Rings
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Mixed Greens
Red Apple Salad
Cornmeal Muffins
Rice Pudding with a Lemon Sauce

We've made her black-eyed peas and corn muffins over and over throughout the years, and for the first day of 2014, we have planned to enjoy this special meal before adventuring out on a hike, then curling up with some new books. Because that's what New Year's Day is all about to us - Celebrating the first day of the year in a way that sets the pace for the rest. Happy New Year's!

Hog Jowl with Black-eyed Peas

1/2 lbs. hog jowl
4-5 cups of water
1 1/2 cups black-eyed peas
1 medium onion
1 green bell pepper*
1 red bell pepper*
1 jalapeno*
1 teaspoon salt

Wash and slice hog jowl, cover with water, and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1-2 hours.

Wash peas, set aside. Dice onion and bell pepper. Add the onion to the water with the peas once water has reached desired seasoning, and bring back to a boil for 30-45 minutes. Peas should be tender, but not mushy.

Add peppers and salt to taste during last 15 minutes of cook time. More salt may be needed if fresh pork was substituted for hog jowl.

Cornmeal Muffins

1 1/2 cups self-rising cornmeal
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk
3 tablespoons oil
1 egg

Mix cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt thoroughly in a bowl. Measure milk into a 2-cup measure. Add oil and unbeaten egg. Mix together thoroughly.

Make hole in center of cornmeal mixture and dumb in milk mixture. Stir only until ingredients are moistened. (Add more milk, if needed, to make batter that can be poured).

Fill hot, oiled muffin pans 2/3 full. Bake at 425 degrees for 17-20 minutes. Make about one dozen 2 1/2 inch muffins.

*optional ingredients, not found in original recipe

Mescal's Home for the Holidays is available in paperback at Barnes and Noble