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Happy New Year From Zirconia
Lovin Them Jowls!
Today is New Years day 2015 and it has long been our tradition here in Zirconia to enjoy a wonderful Southern meal that always involves pork. Zirconia, North Carolina is where me and my family live and the area was named for the zircon which was once mined here and sought by Thomas Edison to be used as raw material for the filament which he thought could be used in his first incandescent light bulbs. We are situated in the Blue Ridge mountains of Western North Carolina. For most of my formative years, chicken and pork were the main meats we ate. Fried chicken or a big pot of chicken and dumplings were regular menu items for Sunday dinners. My daddy grew hogs and it seems when I was a "youngun" he would pick the coldest day of the year to slaughter hogs.
Hog killing meant water and plenty of it would have to be carried from the creek and heated in a 55 gallon barrel to boiling to scrape the bristles from the hog. Once cleaned, the hog would be hung by the hind legs and gutted. Dad always saved the liver and the heart and both were immediately taken to my mom who soon would have one of the organs soon cooking for our lunch. I always hoped it would be the heart since I hated liver.
It wasn't until years later, however; I discovered hog jowls though I'm sure my parents had eaten them over the years. From the first day following the slaughter of our hogs, we enjoyed fresh tenderloin or the sausage daddy had mixed and ground at the community store in the village community store butcher shop. Dad liked to season our sausage himself and mom would sometimes can the sausage in jars. My last year in the Air Force while stationed at a now obsolete and closed ACW radar site, mom sent me a jar of the sausage she had made that year. I remember cooking it in my room on a hot plate and all my barracks mates, stopping by to inquire what was cooking. I barely had enough to share and the sausage made me home sick for the Blue Ridge.
Each year in our home we have a traditional New Years meal. Fresh collard greens, black eyed peas, sweet potatoes, corn bread and always plenty of hog jowls that hat been fried or baked to a nice crispness. The best ones are hickory smoked and no bacon (in this man's opinion) can compare to the taste.
Many local farmers grow collards and other greens such as kale, curly mustard and seven top and I picked up ours yesterday. The produce manager at the local Ingle's was just restocking and I found some really great collards for our New Years dinner. The old timers have a saying about collards and cabbage,the best ones are the ones that have been frosted on and have a sweeter taste.
There are the old wives tales that remind us that the collards represent dollars and the black eyed peas pennies. Hog jowls represent joy of which there seems to be so little these days. Regardless of the hype and the tales, I plan on having me some jowls, plenty of collards seasoned with ham hock, some good old black eyed peas, corn one but most of all plenty of hog jowls. There won't be much room left for the sweet potato but by the time the meal is over our tummies will have been stuffed and a huge smile on our lips.
So as the New Year approaches, let me wish all of you a Happy New Year. May your New Year be filled with prosperity and lots of joy.