Weekly food rail, this week with an emphasis on traditional New Year's food, including a recipe for Hoppin' John.


  Some New Year’s food traditions from around the world, courtesy of www.fabulousfoods.com:   - Eating noodles at midnight is customary at Buddhist temples in Japan.   - A German/Pennsylvania Dutch tradition is to eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day for good luck.   - It is the tradition of Bosnia and Croatia to eat what is called "Sarma" -- beef wrapped tightly in cabbage -- to bring good luck in health and wealth for the upcoming year.   - It is a Cuban tradition to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. The 12 grapes signify the past year.   - German folklore says that eating herring at the stroke of midnight will bring luck for the next year.   - Eating pickled herring as the first bite of the New Year brings good luck to those of Polish descent.   - In the Southern United States, it is believed eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Eve will bring luck for the coming year (see recipe below).   - Also from the South comes the custom of eating greens such as cabbage, collard greens, mustard greens, kale or spinach to bring money.   - One more from the Southerners: Eating cornbread will bring wealth.   - In the Philippines, it is important to have food on the table at midnight in order to insure an abundance of food in the upcoming year.    - Boiled Cod is a New Year's Eve must in Denmark.   - Olie Bollen a donut-like fritter is popular in Holland for New Year.   - Black-eyed peas, fish, apples, and beets are eaten for luck at the Jewish New Year's celebration (not celebrated on Jan 1).   Easy Recipe: Hoppin’ John   Hoppin' John is traditional favorite dish to serve on New Year's Eve in the South. Here’s a recipe from www.fabulousfoods.com:   1 lb. dried black-eyed peas 1/2 lb. salt pork, cubed 1/2 lb. cooked ham, cubed 1 large onion, chopped 3 garlic cloves, minced 1 ham bone 1/4 tsp. (more to taste) crushed red pepper Pepper to taste 3 C cooked rice   Rinse peas and pick over, removing any small stones or foreign particles. Cover with cold water in a large pot, bring to a boil for a minute, remove from heat cover and let sit for one hour. In a large skillet, saute the salt pork to render fat, add onion and garlic and cook until onion is soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add the onion mixture along with the ham bone and seasonings to the pot with the peas. Add enough water to cover the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 1- 1 1/2 hours or until black eyes peas are tender but not mushy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over hot cooked rice. Serves 8.   Wine Tips   Here are the best types of cheese to serve with Champagne, courtesy of www.wineintro.com:   - Brie is a soft, creamy French cheese that is best served very fresh. This goes wonderfully with a gentle Champagne, something light and fruity.   - Cheddar is an English cheese that most people have tried at some point. The French and the English may not get along all too well, but the cheeses certainly do! Choose a mild, young cheddar; it will go well with some of the sharper, brighter Champagnes.   - Chevre is the French word for "goat cheese." Make sure it's fresh, and it will have a mild but tangy flavor to it. Use this with the stronger Champagnes that have a bit of kick to them.   - Colby is a hard, mild cheese often associated with Port. It's originally from Wisconsin, and does go very well with Champagne as well. Try this with a medium-bodied Champagne.   - Edam is a semi-hard, creamy cheese from Holland. It's slightly nutty, so it's a great pairing with the many Champagnes that have that nutty undertone to them.   - Gouda is another Dutch cheese, this one hard and smooth. As it also has a nutty flavor to it, it also pairs wonderfully with the nutty Champagnes.   Critics Cupboard: Chocolate Chex cereal   From General Mills, the toasted rice and corn cereal is flavored with chocolate. A 3/4-cup serving has 130 calories, 8 gram of sugar, 2.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of dietary fiber and 12 vitamins and minerals. A news release says the cereal provides a nutritious breakfast while allowing people to satisfy their love of chocolate. The testers thought the cereal was too sweet and wondered whether chocolate belongs in a breakfast cereal. “It’s very crunchy.” “It’s not necessary to have chocolate in cereal.” “It tastes like Chex mix with chocolate.” Would they buy it? No, they said. -- State Journal-Register   Number to Know: 112.5   Per-capita liters of beer that Germans drank in 2007, a drop of 3.5 liters, the eighth decline in the past nine years. Germany used to be the world’s leader in beer consumption, but no longer – the Czech Republic and Ireland now top them. – Source: Reuters   Wise to the Word: Spoom   A frothy type of sherbet made with a light sugar syrup mixed with a liquid such as fruit juice, Champagne or Sauternes. Halfway through the freezing process, the mixture is combined with uncooked meringue, which gives spoom its airy texture. The Italians call this frozen specialty spuma, which means "foam" or "froth." -- www.epicurious.com   GateHouse News Service