I don’t know about other regions of the United States and elsewhere, but in the deep South Gulf states, it is a New Year’s Day tradition to eat a meal of cornbread, cabbage, and black-eyed peas.
There is a story that the eating of these particular vitands will bring prosperity in the new year, the cornbread representing gold, the cabbage representing dollars, and the peas representing coins. Some people even have a tradition of burying a silver coin in the serving bowl of peas and whoever receives the coin in their scoop of peas is guaranteed good luck in the New Year!
The cornbread is not the sweet, cake-like bread that northerners call cornbread. Down here, it is a dry, grainy bread, often cooked crusty in a greasy cast-iron skillet and the black-eyed peas are often seasoned with a fat ham hock.
The cabbage is traditionally boiled or wilted, and seasoned with salt and seasoned with ham or bacon or at least butter.
But not in south Louisiana! One of my sisters-in-law first introduced me this Cajun substitute for the comparatively bland New Years wilted cabbage when I was a teen and now no New Years Day meal is complete without it!
Here’s how they kick their New Year’s cabbage up a notch or two!
Cajun fried cabbage
- a package of sliced bacon cut into small pieces
- 1-2 medium onions, roughly diced – or 1-2 cups of Trinity (diced onion, bell pepper, and celery)
- A head of cabbage, cut into pieces
- 2 cans of Rotel tomatoes
- salt, garlic, Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning
Fry the bacon until crispy, Drain, reserving the bacon grease.
Saute the onion in the bacon grease. As the onion is cooking, season it with the salt and garlic.
Stir-fry the cabbage in the bacon grease and onion mixture, tossing until the cabbage is coated.
Pour in the cans of Rotel, juice and all. Cover and boil until the cabbage is wilted.
Add the fried bacon back to the cabbage mixture and toss to mix.
Adjust all seasonings to taste.
If you have juice left in the bottom of the pan, scrape the cabbage to the side and whisk in a pinch or two of flour to thicken the juice. Then toss to coat everything with the thickened juice.