Happy New Year and all That Hog Jowl!Written by Lillian Tram on January 6th, 2014
In the South, we have a scrumptious New Year’s tradition for your enjoyment and consideration to which we owe the pig some big thanks. Perhaps you have never heard of hog jowl but it is something we eat every New Year’s Day. Similar to bacon but thicker and substantially more coarse, hog jowl is believed to bring good luck to all who consume it on this day.
Hog jowl is a tough cut of meat from the “cheek” of the hog. Typically, this cut of meat is best when smoked, cured, and fried like bacon. Hog jowl can also be used when seasoning beans, peas, and greens for a divine flavor that’s hard to turn down.
For New Year’s Day, hog jowls are traditionally fried and eaten to promote health, prosperity, and success. Those of us who live in the South are not alone in our New Year’s Day beliefs. All over the world, people celebrate the beginning of a New Year with pork. Germany is known for creating marzipan pigs for centerpieces and for giving to neighbors. Austria natives enjoy dining on pig’s feet, pork sausage, roast suckling pig, or pork dumplings.
Pigs: the Symbol of Health and Wealth
Pigs have always been symbolic of health and wealth in the South as owning a hog could mean a family’s survival for the entire winter. The fatty meat which pigs provide can help to create a significant source of food for those who are not wealthy. In times past, having pork in one’s possession would mean the difference between life and death for some poor Southern families.
Pigs: the Symbol of Success
Throughout history, pigs have also symbolized success and progress. There is a superstition that because pigs cannot turn their heads to look back, they are always looking to the future which makes them a perfect fit for many New Year’s Day celebrations.
But Why the Tough Cut of Hog Jowls?
This can be answered quite easily – because it is winter time. Because Hog Jowl is a cut that can be cured and stored for a long period of time, it becomes the perfect choice for our New Year’s Day spread. Another reason to choose hog jowl is the added benefit of seasoning those black-eyed peas and greens which we also consider good luck to consume on this special day.
How to Buy Hog Jowl
Hog Jowl is usually packaged just like thick-sliced bacon or on the rind. Cooks remove the rind and slice the jowl before frying it on both sides in a skillet. Drain the fried meat on a paper towel and serve it with the rest of your holiday feast. A good condiment to have available is Tobasco sauce or hot sauce.
How to Cook Hog Jowl
Cooking hog jowl is amazingly simple as it can be cooked exactly like bacon. Season your black-eyed peas and collard greens just as you would with bacon pieces. Southerners like my Mother would say that isn’t enough hog jowl to bring prosperity. You would need to also fry some hog jowl up to eat as well. Because it is a tougher cut, you will have to fry it longer than you would bacon. Deep frying is recommended for the best flavor. In the South, we have deep fried almost everything at one time or another.
Don’t Feel Bad for Pigging Out on New Year’s Day
Through the ages, hogs and pigs have been a symbol of both positive and negative proportions through the aspects of prosperity and gluttony. Some say they are “being a pig” when they eat more than they feel they should have while other cultures have traditions that imply the more pig consumed on New Year’s Day, the more money will come to you in the coming year. For those of us who simply love food, this is great news. Now we have a great reason to return to the table for seconds.
From our Home to Yours,
May You Have a Prosperous and Pig-tastic New Year!