At midnight in Spain, citizens eat exactly 12 grapes, one for every stroke of the clock as the New Year rings in. In Germany and Austria, a red wine punch is served alongside a suckling pig.
Pork is favored in many cultures for bringing good luck, as it represents wealth and prosperity. Pigs are also forward-moving with their snouts as they root for food, therefore considered a symbol of progress.
Growing up, New Year’s Day at my granny’s Southern table meant hog jowl (a cut of pork from a pig’s cheek), greens (usually mustard greens or poke salad), black-eyed peas and cornbread. The peas represented pennies, the greens stood for dollars, the cornbread for gold and the pork for prosperity.
Lentils are another “pea” eaten on New Year’s in parts of Italy, along with sausages and a dessert of Chiacchiere (fried dough rolled in honey and powdered sugar) and prosecco to wash it all down.
Whether you believe a food can bring good luck or not, these greens are good for you and easy to cook and can easily be made vegetarian by eliminating the bacon and using veggie broth.
If you happen to be in Mexico when the New Year rings in, you’ll likely be eating tamales and menudo, a tripe and hominy soup. Soba noodles will be served across Japan on New Year’s Day, as the long noodles represent longevity and prosperity. Bread and cakes are on the menu in various parts of the world with many cultures consuming King Cake or New Year’s cake at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Whether you believe a food can bring good luck or not, these greens are good for you and easy to cook and can easily be made vegetarian by eliminating the bacon and using veggie broth. They go well with cornbread if you’re so inclined, and make a great side dish to any kind of pork but they can also be enjoyed on their own or mixed with beans, rice or noodles of any sort.
Greens with Onions & Garlic
Serves 4-6 (recipe can be doubled)
-4 bunches of greens of your choice – can be mixed or just one kind – collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, Swiss chard, etc.
-6 slices bacon, chopped, optional
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
-Salt, as desired
-Black pepper, as desired
-1 ½ cups broth, vegetable or chicken
-Crushed red pepper flakes, as desired
-Lemon juice or red wine vinegar, as desired
Wash greens by immersing them in a sink full of cold water, replacing water until it's clear of all dirt and debris. Drain greens and then remove center stems before slicing leaves into small ribbons. Set aside.
If using bacon, brown chopped pieces in a large, deep skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Remove cooked bacon bits and add olive oil to the bacon fat left in the pot. Add onion and garlic to hot oil, sautéing until tender and fragrant, 4 or 5 minutes. If you’re not using bacon, simply heat olive oil in the skillet before adding onion and garlic.
Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add greens in batches as they wilt down. If using Swiss chard, do not add it yet. Pour broth into pot and cook gently for 15 minutes. Then add Swiss chard if using.
Cover and simmer for at least 5 more minutes. I like to let the greens simmer on low for an hour or so but they can certainly be taken off the heat and eaten sooner than that.
Before serving, taste the greens and season with more salt and pepper if desired. Add a squeeze or two of lemon juice or a splash of red wine vinegar, to taste.
Greens are a great side dish to serve with any kind of pork. Beans and cornbread are a great accompaniment as well.