01 January 2011

1 January - New Year's Day; 8th Day of Christmas; Baked Ham Slices and Hoppin' John

Weather: the weather today foretells the weather of January and of August.
Sunny with high, thin clouds, and very warm.

If the wind blows from the south on the first day of January, it will blow from the south every day of that month.  I checked.  It is from the south.  Maybe that is why it is so nicely warm today.

If New Year's Day in the morning opens with dusky red clouds, it denotes strife and debates among great ones, and many robberies to happen that year.  No dusky red clouds this morning.  Huzzah!

If January kalends be summerly gay, It will be winterly weather till the kalends of May. [Which seems a pretty safe bet however 'summerly gay' the day.At 50 degrees F, with birds singing, and no need for a jacket, it seems summerly gay to me.  Ah, me - a long winter ahead.

If the Kalends (the 1st) of January fall on Saturday, there will be a snowy Winter, blowing Spring, and rainy Summer; earth fruits will labor, sheep perish, old men die, and other men be sick; the eyes of many will be tender, and fires will be prevalent in the course of the year.
So comforting.

However: But it is good for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God: That I may declare all thy praises, in the gates of the daughter of Sion. (Psalm 73:28)
The Octave of Christmas.  In the traditional calendar, this is the Feast of the Circumcision; in the new calendar it is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God; in the almanacs it is Holy Name; and for certain Orthodox Christians it is the feast of Saint Basil the Great.

In the civil calendar, this is New Year's Day - the beginning.  Look back for experience, look forward for adventure.

The Church Fathers said that today should be a solemn day of fasting and prayer, to make up for the excessive celebrations of the pagans of their day (and our own).  Prayer should certainly be a part of this day, as it should every day (and I am not talking about the prayers to the porcelain god over the excesses of last night), and fasting is probably salutary for those who have been taking in more calories than is good for them since Thanksgiving.  Fine.  Do as thou wilt.

And for those who say Christians should not celebrate a civil holiday - again, do as thou wilt.

Some of us kept a "Little Lent" all through Advent, and looked forward to the joy and celebration of Christmastide - and some of us tend to celebrate beginnings in joy and hopeful trust; as of September 1752, the first of January has been the first day - the beginning - of a new year, in Great Britain and her (present and former) colonies. 

Be po-faced if you want, but by gum! I'm going to celebrate!
What you do on the first day of the year indicates the character of your actions throughout the year.
Start by offering thanks to God for his goodness to you.  Keep a bit of money in your pocket (but don't spend any) to ensure money in your pocket all year long.  Wear new clothes.  Eat, drink, and be merry to ensure abundance.  Visit with friends and wish them happiness in the new year, read the books you received for Christmas, get in touch with absent family members, enjoy one of your hobbies or start a new one, survey the garden and plan what shall go in this year...

To break something on the first day of the year causes bad luck for the remainder of the year.

If you wash anything on New Year's Day, you will wash a member of the family away.
Leave the dishes until tomorrow.  While you might want to wash your brother-in-law away, there's no telling which member of the family will go.

If you dip your head into the ocean on January first, you will not be ill during the year.
There are people who go the whole hog and jump into the icy waters (no mere head dip for them!)  In the Smallest State, we have two "Polar Bear Plunges" scheduled for today - one in Jamestown and one in Newport.  If you've already securely packed away your bathing suit (so that it will not be found until summer), then bundle up, make a donation to the Plungers' charity, and go support those brave souls!

For good luck, dinner tonight should be of an animal that moves forward.  Fish, ducks, and geese swim forward, and pigs root forward, so they are lucky; chickens and turkeys scratch backward, cattle and sheep paw backward, so they are unlucky.  Of course, from the chosen entree's point of view, it is probably the other way round.

My mother said that one must eat cabbage for an increase in money; friend Amy says that one must eat black-eyed peas for good luck.  My traditional New Year's Day Dinner combines them with the forward-moving animal above: glazed ham, coleslaw and/or sauerkraut, and Hoppin' John.


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Either buy already sliced ham or cut up your own.  Slices should be 1-1/2 inches thick.  [One large slice will serve 2 - 4 people; I have also used individual slices, cut from a small boneless ham] Cut off the rind (if any) and score the fat to keep the slice from curling.  Place ham slice(s) in a baking dish.

In a bowl, mix together 2 teaspoons of dry mustard with 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar until smooth.  Stir in 3/4 cup of maple syrup, and pour over the ham.  Bake for about 40  minutes for a ready-to-serve ham, 60 minutes for an uncooked ham, basting frequently [do not overcook or allow it to dry out].

If your baking dish can be used on top of the stove, transfer the ham to a warm serving dish.  If not, remove the ham from the baking dish, pour the sauce into a saucepan, and return the ham to the baking dish to stay warm.

Over high heat, stir the sauce until it is a thin gravy consistency.  Put the ham in a serving dish (if it isn't there already) and pour sauce over it.
HOPPIN' JOHN usually comes out of a box for me - much easier, and I have time for other things today.  But for those who want to give it a try from scratch (or close to scratch):

Start with 1 cup of dried black-eyed peas.  Either soak overnight in 3 cups of water or bring peas and water to a boil and boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.

Dice 1 medium onion.  If using salt pork or bacon, dice 2 ounces of salt pork, or 3-4 slices of bacon.

Drain the peas, measuring the water, and add more water (if needed) to make 3 cups.  Into a kettle put peas, water, either 1 ham hock or the salt pork or the bacon, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until peas are tender for about 1 to 1-1/4 hours.

Cook 1 cup of long-grain rice separately, according to package directions, or combine 1 cup of rice, 2 cups of water, and 1 teaspoon of salt (optional) in a pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer about 14-15  minutes.  Remove from heat. Fluff the rice lightly, cover, and let steam for 5-10 minutes.

If using a ham hock, pick the meat off the bone and add to the peas.  Discard the bone.

Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne.

Mix rice with 1 tablespoon of butter and mix lightly with the peas.  Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes to allow flavors to blend.

I wish you all
Joy, Blessing, Health, Wealth, Love, and Laughter