Celebrate New Year’s Day with traditional southern fare

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Special to the Opelika Observer

By Ann Cipperly

New Year’s Day at our home is slow paced with football games on the television and putting up the last of the Christmas decorations. In the afternoon, I will follow my southern roots and cook black-eyed peas and maybe collards.  Supper will also include a baked ham or chicken for those in the family who do not enjoy the southern traditional fare. I used to relish New Year Day at my parents’ home in Opelika, as my mother made southern favorites.

Growing up, all of our decorations were out of the house the day after Christmas. When Don and I married, this was a surprise to him since his parents put a tree up Christmas Eve and took it down New Year’s Day.

Since we always have a huge tree, it wouldn’t be worth the time decorating the day before Christmas, so I have a combination of southern and Yankee family traditions with the tree up early and down on New Year’s. However, these days if we have a house full of helpers, it might be down earlier.

As 2016 comes to a close, we have been reminiscing about the year. This past year was a time of dealing with critters. The year started off with termite ridden windows torn out and squirrels and raccoons in the attic above our bed that made as much noise as possible all night.

Early last year I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep away from home as we headed to Charleston, S.C., for a travel article. We stayed at the gorgeous Cottages at Charleston Harbour nestled among trees overlooking the water. I had no sooner settled in bed when I heard noise in the attic, then in the wall next to the bed. Apparently, a squirrel or some critter had fallen between the walls and tried all night to get out.

The next day workers came to look for the critter and trim branches near the cottage.

It seemed wherever we went during the year there were critters. The next trip wasn’t any better at finding sleep in a cabin tucked among the trees on the side of a mountain. We were sleeping on the top floor when a loud ruckus on the porch sounded as though someone was trying to break in. I woke Don up. He said it was probably a critter, maybe a bear, so he wasn’t checking it out.

While sipping coffee the next morning, I was reading notes on the bulletin board in the kitchen and noticed one important message about a raccoon that visits the porch at night. He came back every night we were there.

After killing a copperhead snake at our backdoor and another snake trying to sneak into the garage, it appeared the critters were gone at our house, except for our rescue long-haired dachshund mix Barkley, who doesn’t know he is a dog. Tree branches around the house were trimmed to make it more difficult for critters to reach the attic, and the windows were finally all replaced.

Other issues to deal with over the year included health, which were much scarier than any critter, with time in the hospital for both of us, a biopsy that was thankfully negative and an exhausting trip to and from M.D. Anderson in Houston.

Houston had a lot of bad weather this past year, and a terrible storm was raging as we sat at my doctor’s office waiting to hear the results of scans. After receiving a good report, I sang praising to God all the way to Baton Rouge, LA., where we generally stay, with the storm following us.

After we checked into the hotel and were leaving to go to dinner, the car made a terrible noise. We prayed it was nothing serious, but the next morning it sounded worse.

There was no way our old reliable 1998 Lexus was going to make it 600 miles. If we got stuck on the side of the road, it could take a while to find a dealership. Fortunately, there was one in Baton Rouge.

As we pulled up to the Lexus dealership, it looked dark, and people were standing outside. A tornado had gone over, leaving them without power and unable to check our car.

Thankfully, a Toyota dealership was next door and had power, so they checked it. After a long wait, the bad news was they would have to order a part that would not arrive for another day. As we were getting into a loaner car, a mechanic said he had a Toyota part that\ would work.

The part did work, and late in the afternoon we headed home, so thankful God had taken care of us there and back. We celebrated our arrival in Opelika that night.

Through this past year and every year God has taken care of us. With the small things we dealt with this past year, we have been blessed. For many friends and family it has been a difficult year. Some are still struggling with heartbreaking situations, while others are dealing with the loss of a loved one.

As I place a pot of black-eyed peas on the stove and mix up cornbread to bake in a cast iron skillet, I remember my mother and the wonderful meals she cooked on New Year’s Day and every day. She enjoyed sharing her cooking with others.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to open my home more for hospitality and to take the time to linger longer over meals with family and friends at the table. Offering a warm, simple home cooked meal to a friend to sit and listen to what is going on in their life is a joy we miss too often because of overloaded schedules.

Our prayer for all of you is a glorious New Year with time to celebrate life with family and friends.

Ann Cipperly can be contacted at recipes@cipperly.com.

Collard or Turnip Greens
Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House in Savannah, Ga.
1 bunch collards or fresh turnip greens with roots
1 medium piece salt pork
1 cup water
1 tsp. salt
Strip stems from leaves unless very tender and wash thoroughly. Place in covered saucepan; add meat, water and salt. Cook 45 minutes on medium heat or until tender.
Remove meat and pour in colander to drain. Place in pan and chip scissor like with two knives. Depending on taste may need more salt. Keep hot and add 2 Tbsp. bacon drippings, butter or margarine.

Easy Black-Eyed Peas
1 (16-oz.) pkg. frozen black-eyed peas
3 cups water or enough water to cover peas
1 or 2 onions, chopped
A swirl of olive oil or half of a 16-oz. pkg. kielbasa, sliced, browned and drained, optional
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients except olive oil and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 40 minutes to an hour or until tender. If not using sausage, add a swirl of olive oil before serving, if desired.

Southern Cornbread Muffins
Mary Hodson
Canola oil
2 cups Martha White buttermilk self-rising cornmeal
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil
This should make 12 muffins. Preheat oven to 450-degrees. Use cast iron muffin tins. Pour small amount of canola oil in each cup. Heat pans until smoking.
While heating pans, combine 2 cups Martha White buttermilk self-rising cornmeal with buttermilk and water. Mix well. Now add canola oil and again mix well.
Batter should be about the consistency of cake batter. If not, add more water to thin.
Pour mixture into hot, smoking pans about 3/4 full. You should hear the pan sizzle if it’s hot enough. Cook for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Baked Ham
Ann Smith
Hock end shank portion ham or ham in natural juices only (not water added)
1/2 cup brown mustard
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 oz. bourbon in spray bottle
2 cups crushed ginger snap cookies
Remove ham from wrapper and rinse and drain.  Put in pan/Pyrex cut side down with small clean towel underneath.  Diamond cut outside with utility knife about 2 inches apart.  Tent the ham with aluminum foil and cook at 250 degrees for 3 hours (or internal temp 130 degrees).  Take out and remove skin and excess fat and preheat oven to 350.
Dab dry with paper towels, then baste with mustard.  Cover outside with brown sugar, then spray with bourbon.  Cake outside with crumbled ginger snaps.  Bake in oven on 350 for 1 hour (inside temp 140).  Take out of oven and let cool for 30 minutes before cutting.  We cook the ham on a Big Green Egg instead of in the oven.

Fresh Fruit Salad with Honey Yogurt Dressing
Beverly Corley
2 cups washed and sliced strawberries
2 cups grapes, halved
1 cup diced apples
3 oranges, peeled, seeded and cubed
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. honey
Toss all fruit together in a medium bowl.
Whisk orange juice, yogurt and honey in a separate bowl. Chill until ready to serve.

Aunt Susie’s Banana Pudding
Mary Ann Swanson
4 heaping Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
3 cups milk
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine sugar, flour, and salt in heavy saucepan or double boiler; slowly add milk.  Heat on medium heat until thickened. Beat egg yolks (reserve whites) and gradually add to hot mixture. Adding a little of the hot mixture to eggs will help to blend better before adding remaining mixture.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes on low.  If mixture is too thick, add more milk.  Remove from heat; add vanilla.
1 box vanilla wafers
Bananas
Layer 1 box vanilla wafers, alternating with sliced bananas and pudding mixture.  Beat egg whites until stiff, adding approximately 4-5 Tbsp. sugar.  Bake at 400 degrees just until meringue is brown.

Lower Alabama Black-Eyed Pea Caviar
From LuLu’s in Gulf Shores
Melody Hilyer
Dressing: 
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Caviar mixture:
4 (15-oz.) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped green bell pepper 
1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 cup chopped red pepper
1 cup chopped red onion 
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup chopped fresh parsley 
Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar; cover tightly and shake vigorously to dissolve sugar. Set aside.
Rinse and drain peas well. Place in a large glass or aluminum bowl.
Add remaining ingredients and dressing. Toss well. Transfer to glass or plastic container, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.
Serve with tortilla scoops, saltines or crackers of choice.

Buttermilk Pie
2 cups sugar
¼ cup flour
3 eggs
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
Two 9-inch unbaked piecrusts
Combine sugar, flour, eggs and butter; mix well. Add buttermilk and vanilla; mix well. Pour into piecrusts. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce heat to 325 and bake 1 hour.

Chicken Brunswick Stew
Brad Hunter
Good to serve while watching football games.
1 large onion, chopped finely
6 large chicken (bone in) breasts
2 (15 oz.) can white cream-style corn
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (12 oz.) bottle chili sauce
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can chicken broth
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup butter or margarine, cut up
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
4 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. pepper sauce (optional)
Place chicken in a slow cooker on high for 4 hours or until done.  Remove chicken from slow cooker, debone and shred.  Chop onion finely and lightly brown in 1 Tbsp. oil.  Mix all ingredients together and let simmer for approximately 1 hour.
Freezes well.

Black Eyed Pea Casserole
Kathey Davidson
1 lb. spicy ground pork sausage
1 medium onion
1 cup white cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 can (15 oz.) black eyed peas, drained
1 cup (8 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese
3/4 cup cream style corn
3/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
1 can (4.5 oz.) chopped green chilies
Cook sausage and onion (chopped) in a large skillet over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring until sausage crumbles and is no longer pink; drain.
Combine cornmeal, flour, salt and baking soda; set aside. Stir together eggs, buttermilk and oil until combined. Add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. Batter will not be smooth.
Add sausage mixture, peas and remaining ingredients to batter, stirring well. Pour into greased 13×9 in. baking dish. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until golden brown and set.
Note: May be frozen up to 1 month.

Black-eyed Peas with Stewed Tomatoes
The stewed tomatoes just add a little bit of tartness and sweetness that goes well with the peas. It’s also good luck too!
Connie Montgomery
2 bags of frozen black-eyed peas (You can use dried or canned, but I                      think frozen are best. The dried take a long time, and the canned are                 sometimes a bit mushy, but use whatever you like.)
3 cups water for frozen peas. (Follow direction on the pkg. for dried peas, and the canned peas just need to be heated on the stove or in the microwave.)
For 2 pkg.  frozen black-eyed peas:
3 cups water
1/2 – 3/4 tsp. kosher salt (Kosher salt and sea salt are stronger than plain table salt, so be careful.)
2 strips bacon or a ham hock
1/2 tsp. pepper
Using a large-sized boiler, bring water to a boil, adding salt, bacon or ham hocks and pepper. Add peas, return to a boil and turn heat to medium; cover and cook 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, covered, for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking process. Check for doneness and saltiness. Add more salt by pinches if necessary. Stir and check until it’s to your taste. You can easily refrigerate for a couple of days and re-heat.  You can remove bacon or ham before serving, but somebody might like to eat them. Serves 10 – 12.
Stewed Tomatoes
This is used as a relish on top of the black-eyed peas, not as an extra vegetable.
Two  # 2 cans tomatoes, mashed
2/3 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. butter
1/2 onion, finely diced
1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced
4 Tbsp. olive, canola or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt (table salt)
4 pieces toasted bread, crumbled, or 1 cup breadcrumbs
Sauté diced onions and green pepper in oil, watching and stirring to avoid burning. Drain; set aside.
Mash tomatoes or process quickly. You don’t want them too ‘mushy’. Mix the onions and peppers with remaining ingredients except breadcrumbs. Cook over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from burning. Turn off heat and add breadcrumbs. Let stand for 30 minutes to allow bread to soak up liquid in tomatoes.
You can double and freeze leftovers. Makes 10 servings.

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