Ushering in the New Year with Friends and Food 2012

New Year’s Greetings!

Although a week has passed since we celebrated New Year’s Day, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a rewarding and renewing 2012. I hope you have 366 days of good health and love and laughter. May your dreams unfold before you and your problems fade behind you!

For many years my husband and I have observed the New Year’s Day tradition of joining a group of friends for dinner. When we started this, we were young, childless couples. Through the years we have welcomed children and mourned the passing of older relatives and friends. We have watched our children grow into adults and have welcomed their spouses. Now we welcome our children’s children and watch them grow from year to year.

Each of us provides one or two dishes for the meal. My contribution is the first course: beer bread and New Year’s Day Good Luck Soup. This year I’ve had a number of requests for the recipes, and one of my Twitter friends, Steffan G. Lewis, suggested that I put the recipes on my blog for anyone who is interested. Thank you, Steffan, for the excellent idea!

Below are the two recipes. While I follow the bread recipe closely, I only use the soup recipe as a guide. The soup varies from year to year but is always good. This year I had no ham bone or fresh parsley, so I made it with Virginia ham and dried parsley. I also admit that I don’t measure the water or vegetable juice or the herbs and spices but adjust amounts so that it tastes right to me. So, feel free to experiment!

New Year’s Day Good Luck Soup

  • 1 20-ounce bag of 15- or 16-bean soup mix [or 20 ounces of a combination of dried beans, peas, and lentils of your choice]
  • 1 meaty ham bone [or ham steak or, in a pinch, 1/4 to 1/2 pound Tavern ham or Virginia ham lunch meat, diced small]
  • 1 can diced tomatoes [fire-roasted or with basil, garlic, and oregano are good]
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce [use more or less, to taste]
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 – 2 cups vegetable juice
  • flavor packet from the bag of beans, if there is one
  • salt [optional]
  1. Rinse the dried beans, drain, and place in a large pot. Cover with 6 to 8 cups cold water and let soak 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Drain soaking water and rinse beans again. [If you forget to soak the beans overnight, you can put the rinsed and drained beans in the pot with 6 to 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Boil a couple minutes, then turn down the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Drain the soaking water and rinse the beans.]
  2. Meanwhile, the night before making the soup, place the ham bone in another large pot with 6 to 8 cups of water [or enough to cover the bone], bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Remove bone and meat. When cool, remove the meat from the bone and chop. Discard the bone and refrigerate the meat. Refrigerate the broth. In the morning, scoop off any congealed fat. [If you are using a ham steak or ham lunch meat, skip this step.]
  3. Place the beans in a large pot, add the ham broth or 6 to 8 cups of fresh water, and simmer gently for 2 hours. [If the liquid foams, remove as much of the foam as possible with a metal spoon.]
  4. Add the ham, diced tomatoes, onions, garlic, and lemon juice. Simmer 1/2 hour.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients except salt and simmer another 1/2 hour.
  6. Taste and add salt if necessary. Often the ham is salty enough that no additional salt is needed.
  7. Enjoy!

Garlic Beer Bread

  • 1 to 1 1/4 cup bread flour
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour [or regular whole what flour or bread flour]
  • 3/4 cup rye flour
  • 1 1/4 cup beer, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon margarine or butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder [or 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic]
  • 2 packages active dried yeast
  • olive oil spray

Optional [if using these ingredients, reduce the amount of flour by 3 tablespoons]:

  • 1 tablespoon whole grain bread improver or wheat gluten
  • 1 tablespoon rye bread improver
  • 1 tablespoon potato flour

Note: Wheat gluten is available in many supermarkets. The other ingredients may be found in specialty stores or online. I get mine through King Arthur Flour.

Using a bread machine:

Follow the directions for your machine. Mine requires that I put the wet ingredients in first. So I put in the beer, honey, and margarine. If using minced fresh garlic, put that in too. Then add all the dry ingredients except the yeast. Make a small hole in the center of the flour [that does not go through to the liquid] and put the yeast in it. Set the machine to the “Dough” setting. When the dough is mixed, remove it from the machine and press it into an 8-inch round cake pan sprayed with olive oil spray.

Using a stand mixer with dough attachment:

Mix the bread flour, wheat flour, salt, garlic powder, and optional ingredients in a large bowl. In a saucepan, heat the beer, honey, and margarine to about 125 degrees F. Put 1 cup of the bread flour mixture and the yeast in the mixer bowl. Pour in the heated beer mixture and mix on low speed 3 minutes. Add the rye flour and beat on medium for another minute. Add the caraway seeds. Gradually add the remaining flour, using more or less as needed, and mix for 3 to 4 more minutes. Remove the dough from the mixer bowl and and press it into an 8-inch round cake pan sprayed with olive oil spray.

Baking:

Spray the top of the dough with olive oil spray. Cover the bread with waxed paper and place in a warm place [I use my oven with a bowl of hot water on a lower rack] to rise for 45 minutes. The bread will not rise much, but don’t worry! This bread does most of its rising during the cooking phase.

Remove the waxed paper and tent aluminum foil over the bread. [If you used a pan of hot water during the rising in the oven, remove that too.] Put the bread in the un-preheated oven. Set the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. While the oven is heating, the bread will be rising. When the temperature reaches 375 degrees, set the timer to 35 or 40 minutes, or until the bread has a hollow sound when tapped.

Remove the bread from the pan. If you like a softer loaf, wrap the hot bread in aluminum foil and let it cool. Otherwise, let it cool on a wire rack. Slice the bread and enjoy!

Note: I don’t think you can substitute water or milk for the beer. The beer has to have something to do with the way the bread rises as it’s baking. None of the other breads I make do so much rising during baking. My husband and I don’t drink beer, but we keep some on hand to make the bread! I’ve used light beer too.

Do you have a traditional New Year’s Day dinner? What traditional foods do you prepare?

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About J. Thomas Ross

Since retiring from a career as a high school English and history teacher, I've been pursuing a career as a writer. My main interest is in writing novels, but I've also written short stories and poetry and done a little editing on the side. I am currently working on a Young Adult novel. One of my poems - "Winter" - won an award at the 2010 Philadelphia Writers Conference, and you can find my fantasy short story "A Rock Is a Rock Is a Rock ... Or Is It?" in the anthology Tales of Fortannis: A Bard's Eye View, which is available in print and Kindle format from Amazon and as an e-book from Double Dragon Press.
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2 Responses to Ushering in the New Year with Friends and Food 2012

  1. donnagalanti says:

    Judy, what a lovely tradition you have kept for years. I think I will have to make both these recipes for a cold winter day!

    • I hope you like them. The people at the dinner insist that I make them every year. One of our children took over making the bread a few years ago — I used to make a couple kinds, but always the beer bread — and the missed the beer bread so much they asked me to make it again. It’s cool how the beer makes it rise as it’s baking. Enjoy!

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