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Have you ever tried to eat 12 grapes in 12 seconds? It is a Cuban New Year’s tradition to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, signifying the last 12 months of the year.
As New Year’s Day approaches, people around the world will plan for the coming year, eager to get off to the best possible start. Many people will “eat for luck” by planning to eat special foods that, by tradition, are supposed to bring them good luck.
Throughout history, people have eaten certain foods on New Year’s Day, hoping to gain riches, love or other kinds of good fortune during the rest of the year.
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.
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. Also from the South comes the custom of eating greens such as cabbage, collard greens, mustard greens, kale or spinach to bring money. Southerners also believe eating cornbread will bring wealth.
Boiled cod is a New Year’s Eve must in Denmark.
Oliebollen, a donut-like fritter, is popular in Holland for the 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).
Another tradition from the Philippines is to collect seven types of round fruits. The round shape of the fruits signifies money and seven is believed to be a lucky number. Set on the dinner table on New Year’s Eve, the fruits are believed to bring prosperity and sound financial status for the coming year.
New Year’s Day Punch
Southerners are known for punches and this one is typical. The recipe came from a cookbook published many years ago by Christ and Grace Episcopal Church in Petersburg, Va.
The tea should be made using 6 tsp. black tea and 2 tsp. green tea.
1 dozen lemons, peeled
1 lb. sugar
1 qt. tea
1 qt. rum
1 qt. gin
2 qts. sparkling water
Place the lemon peels in a bowl and pour the boiling tea over them. In a large bowl, squeeze the lemon juice over the sugar. When the tea is cool, remove the lemon peels and combine with the sugar-lemon juice.
Add the rum. If you wish, you can stop here and bottle this mixture, which will keep indefinitely in a cool place. When ready to serve the punch, add the gin and the sparkling water. Serve over a large block of ice or one quart of crushed ice. Makes 5 quarts.
A tall, cold, spicy Bloody Mary is one of the best drinks to have on New Year’s Day, so if you’re having a few friends over, why not gather up these ingredients, just in case.
8 cups thick tomato juice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. celery salt
2 tsps. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsps. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsps. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsps. Tabasco sauce
10 oz. vodka
Pour the tomato juice into a large pitcher. Stir in the salt, celery salt, pepper, lemon juice, lime juice, Worcestershire, Tabasco and vodka. Chill for at least one hour before serving. Fill tall glasses with crushed ice and add the mix. Garnish and serve. Makes 10 servings.
Baked Artichoke and Crab Dip
1/2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 (14-oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 pickled jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/4 cup chopped pimiento
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Juice of 1 small lemon
2 tsps. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/2 lb. crabmeat, no shells
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 6x9-inch baking dish. Set small skillet over medium heat. Add oil and sauté bell pepper until tender. Combine artichokes, jalapeno, mayonnaise, scallions, pimiento, Parmesan, lemon juice, Worcestershire, celery salt and sautéed bell pepper in large bowl. Fold in crabmeat. Place mixture in baking dish and sprinkle with almonds. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve with tortilla chips.
Oliebollen (Dutch doughnuts)
A traditional Dutch treat on New Year’s, this is a deep fried pastry, similar to a doughnut, filled with raisins and dusted with powdered sugar. Some modern variations serve them topped with a berry filling, but this is a traditional recipe that will stay crispy for 2 to 3 hours after frying.
1 (0.6 oz.) fresh yeast cake
1 cup lukewarm milk
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps. salt
3/4 cup dried currants
3/4 cup raisins
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
1 cup confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Break up the compressed yeast, and stir into the warm milk. Let stand for a few minutes to dissolve. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Stir the yeast mixture and egg into the flour and mix into a smooth batter. Stir in the currants, raisins and apple. Cover the bowl, and leave the batter in a warm place to rise until double in size. This will take about one hour.
Heat the oil in a deep fryer, or heavy deep pan to 375 degrees. Use two metal spoons to shape scoops of dough into balls, and drop them carefully into the hot oil.
Fry the balls until golden brown, about 8 minutes. The doughnuts should be soft and not greasy. If the oil is not hot enough, the outside will be tough and the insides greasy. Drain finished doughnuts on paper towels and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve them piled on a dish with more sugar dusted over them. Eat them hot, if possible.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at email@example.com.