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Amanda Galiano

Hog Jowls and Pork: Explaining Southern New Year's Traditions

By December 31, 2010

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Marzipan Pigs

Marzipan Pigs - Copyright Roy Gumpel / National Geographic / Getty Images

I probably need to explain what a hog jowl is.   Some Yankees have never heard of this cut of pork.  It's the "cheek" of the hog.   It tastes and cooks similar to thick cut bacon.  It's a tough cut that is typically smoked and cured.  Hog jowl is used to season beans and peas, or fried and eaten like bacon.

On New Year's Day, hog jowls are traditionally eaten in the south to ensure health, prosperity and progress.   The south isn't the only place that eats pork on New Year's Day.   All over the world people are using marzipan pigs to decorate their tables, partaking in pig's feet, pork sausage, roast suckling pig or pork dumplings.  We're just the only ones who put so much faith in the jowl cut.

Hogs and pigs have long been a symbol of prosperity and gluttony. It's why we say someone is "being a pig" when they take more than their share. Some cultures believe that the bigger pig you eat on New Year's, the bigger your wallet will be in the coming year.  So, the "fatter" the pig, the "fatter" your wallet.  Spit and pit roasted pigs are popular New Year's meals.

In the south and other poor areas, pigs were considered symbolic of both health and wealth, because families could eat for the entire winter on the fatty meat one pig produced.  Having pork could mean the difference between life and death in a really cold winter.

Pigs have also long symbolized progress.  A pig can't turn his head to look back without turning completely around, so it's believed that pigs are always looking to the future.  They fit in perfectly with other New Year's celebrations.

Why hog jowls? You need to look at my black-eyed pea article for some detailed explanation.   The short answer is that we eat cured pork because it's winter time.  Hog jowl is a cured product which stores well for long periods.  During the winter, cured pork would be one meat that would be accessible.

Plus, it goes well with black-eyed peas and collard greens.  It's a good thing the people who made these superstitions up didn't come up with something like snails, cornbread and black-eyed peas.  I don't think it would have caught on.

How do you cook hog jowl for New Year's? Some people only use the jowl to season their black-eyed peas and collard greens.  Most in the south would say that's not enough to make you prosperous.  You also have to partake in some fried hog jowl.  It's cooked similar to bacon, but hog jowl is a bit tougher and takes a little longer to cook.

Jowl typically comes in a package, sliced like thick bacon or uncut on the "rind."  Most people remove the rind, slice it and fry the slices in a skillet, like bacon, until brown on both sides.  It's then drained on a paper towel and served.  Since it's a cured food, it typically doesn't need extra salt, but some like to serve it with pepper or hot sauce.

Enjoy!

About Black-eyed Peas, About Collard Greens and Cornbread

Comments

December 31, 2010 at 8:00 am
(1) derfla retton says:

great blog Amanda Happy New Year to you and your family

December 31, 2010 at 10:26 am
(2) Alan G says:

Hmmmm….

Well Amanda, with regard to jowls let me just say this. I must just be a prudish and uppity Southerner because there are just some things I won’t eat. Those being hog jowls, brains, cow tongue and of course those bull private parts. Peas cooked with a few strips of bacon will just be fine with me – thank you! I will just have to do my blogging from a homeless shelter in 2011 if my prosperity rests on hog jowls! :)

December 31, 2010 at 11:46 am
(3) littlerock says:

Alan, to be honest (and I’ll probably get kicked out of the south for saying this), I don’t eat pork myself. So, there are always hog jowls present at the meal, but I never partake.

I don’t like collard greens either. I think I hear someone coming to revoke my southern states card right now!

Anyway, so far I’ve lived a fairly normal life without either, hehe. I do love me some black-eyed peas, but not seasoned with pork.

February 7, 2011 at 11:01 pm
(4) Maryface says:

How do you pronounce “jowl” as in Jowl Bacon? Is it “jole” or “joel”? In Indiana they say “joel” like the name Joel. I think it is a local mispronounciation. Help settle a family dispute. Thanks. Feel free to email me any response.

February 8, 2011 at 7:57 am
(5) Amanda says:

Here we say jowl like it rhymes with howl.

The pronunciation of it on this dictionary (hit the little speaker graphic) is the way we say it:
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/jowl

November 15, 2011 at 5:44 pm
(6) Bert says:

Just made the best Pinto Beans and Andouille Sausage gumbo, with Ham Hocks and smoked Hog Jowl. Best I’ve ever made or ate!

December 5, 2011 at 3:08 am
(7) Chickenhawk says:

I’m from Louisiana, we eat about anything that wont eat us first. But one of the ways i like jowl is, 7,8, or6 strips in a big wad of napkins around them , bout 3 minites in the microwave. They come out real nice. Perfect for snacking while watching a NFL ball game

December 5, 2011 at 8:25 am
(8) Jennifer Lee says:

Hi. I moved from N.J. six years ago to N.C. Never ate or heard about collard greens, until my southern neighbor and I became friends. Well, I not only cut collards, stripped them, and cooked them, my friend also introduced me to “hog Jowls” she gave me some from her freezer, she showed me how to cook both the hog jowls and the collards. YUM YUM YUM. I have some in my freezer now to enjoy throughout the year. The seasoning meat is the best, and I shall try my hand at making black eyed peas with “hog jowls”

December 8, 2011 at 12:47 am
(9) Minnesota Man says:

Thanks for your informative article.

This Yankee had no idea what a hog jowl was, and my guess was way off.

I’d like to try it sometime. Or, maybe I have had it in pork and beans?

December 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm
(10) annedconcepcion says:

you will like to your friends for promotion code

December 29, 2011 at 3:10 pm
(11) crewnax42 says:

I’m a former country boy who is going to cook his wife and boys some hog jowl and black eyed peas for NewYears. My wife has always cooked black-eye peas and collards and sometimes corned beef. This time is going to be a Tennessee New Years. They are out of town and will return on new Years Day. I am going to cook Turnip greens,BEPs all with hog jowl. yessir. And cornbread. Wish me luck. Thanks for the ideas. From a former Ridgerunner.

December 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm
(12) Bobby says:

We pronounce it in Tennessee hawg jawl. Kinda like you would here a Tennessean say “Ball”

December 31, 2011 at 3:15 pm
(13) Jimmy says:

Alan–properly prepared jowls taste just like bacon

December 31, 2011 at 9:48 pm
(14) Linda says:

I’ve eaten hog jowl every New Year’s Day for about 30 years, and it’s always cooked the same way. Cut off the rind, slice about 1/4″ thick, and then pound it with a meat hammer (just to tenderize the meaty part–you have to be careful not to rip the fat part). Soak the slices in milk, coat them heavily with seasoned flour, then fry in a bit of oil in a skillet. Remove and drain on napkins, and use the pan leavings to make gravy with chicken broth and milk and fresh ground black pepper. Add some homemade biscuits, collard greens, and blackeyed peas, and you’ve got a fantastic New Year’s Day meal!

January 2, 2012 at 12:56 am
(15) Patty says:

Today my husband and I stopped in at a small town TN restaurant named Bailey’s at Parker’s Crossroad on Rt. 40. (He was driving so I hope that is all correct.) Well, we go in and the cute young waitress says so proudly, “we also have hawg jowls as a specialty”. I said, “Huh?” I thought she was kidding!! She was so proud! After she repeated it and I then understood and “got it”, I said well if that means prosperity, by golly we’ll both have “hawg jowls”. I had no idea what it was but when it came it looked like, tasted like and apparently was cooked just like bacon. Chewy, thick, and I think I will only partake of same again on New Year’s Day. I am now counting on a prosperous new year since we also had black eyed peas. We did it RIGHT!

January 2, 2012 at 2:59 am
(16) Mel says:

I have lived in GA since 2003. Have eaten southern many times, but this New yrs eve I prepared the best black eye peas and mustard greens 1st time with jowl served over brown rice w/pork chops w/ peach whiskey sauce. Came out fantastic! The jowl you just cut off the rind, fry it on each side. I used Cumberland Gap smoked pork jowl. It tells you how to cook it on the pkg easy like bacon. So yeah when you finish frying your jowl only empty some fat. Leave the meat and a tbsp of fat oil in pot, throw in some onions+grn peppers+minced garlic+2tbsp butter med\low temp. Add COOKED black eye peas (if you didn’t have time to soak over night two reg cans of black eye peas can be used) one can rotel diced tomato and jalapeno+ 1 packet of sazon from GOYA to season. Now I used packaged chopped mustard greens they were on sale and saved time. Grab two BIG handfuls and mix in your pot. Add about a half a cup of water and cover. Simmer….and this only takes under 7min on low simmer to get wilted. Serve over rice. Eat with pork :-P

December 17, 2012 at 10:02 am
(17) Arkansas says:

I grew up in the south always had hog jowls and black eyed peas for tradition, now that I’m in the north these folks look at me like I have lost my mind, when I tell them I looking for hog jowls in the store, and I tried their traditions up here didn’t work for me, so I going old school this year, going back to hog jowl and black eyed peas.

December 31, 2012 at 8:18 pm
(18) Debbie says:

Living in the South has a lot of advantages and traditions like hog jowl, black eyed peas, cabbage, and cornbread are some of the best! Love the tast of hog jowl…it is pretty salty, but I only eat it once a year so it’s not too bad.

January 4, 2014 at 6:03 am
(19) Mark says:

Batter your hog jowl in flower mixed with salt pepper and a touch of sugar fry that add some hobo bread and eggs and you got the best meal you ever eat

January 4, 2014 at 7:24 am
(20) Les says:

Anyone who hasn’t heard of hog jowls has never watched reruns of “The Beverly Hillbillies”. It was watching this show as a kid that I first heard about them. Later when I moved to the south, I saw them in the meat section of the market. Back then they were considered a trash food and I could pick up as much fresh jowl as I wanted for 37 cents a pound. Now, like chicken wings, they have developed a whole new following and as such the price has risen to as much as $3.00 a pound locally. I use them in soups and bean dishes and I love them fried like bacon. I cut them into strips leaving the rind on. After they’re fried, I cut the rind off, it’s so much easier then, and eat them dipped in ketchup. Yummy.

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