New Year’s Eve is right around the corner and no matter what part of the world you’re in, it’s a time of year that spins a little magic. People around the globe embrace many traditions, focus on good luck in the year ahead, and often enjoy one last night of celebrating holiday festivities before starting new resolutions.
At Coborn’s, we have guests and employees from around the world who grace our stores each week. In appreciation for the array of cultural richness among us, below you’ll find some New Year’s Eve food traditions from different countries. If you pay attention, you may notice that there are three overarching themes to many New Year’s foods: gold, round things, and pork. Gold symbolized wealth and good fortune. Rings symbolize the year coming full circle. And in many countries, pigs symbolize progress because they never walk backward. Who knew?
Rice Pudding with a Surprise
As a child, one of my favorite New Year’s traditions came from my dad’s side of the family. His mom was Finnish and on New Year’s Day, she always served warm rice pudding with an almond hidden in the dish. The person who found the almond would certainly enjoy good luck in the New Year. I was about five or six when I first found it and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
When I married into my husband’s family (99% Polish heritage), I had never heard of sauerkraut as a New Year’s Day dish to bring forth good luck in the year ahead. I later learned that Germans traditionally eat sauerkraut on New Year’s Eve to ensure wealth and good fortune in the New Year. This is a tradition I gladly embraced. Yum! Pickled herring is also a favorite in Poland.
A friend of mine from college grew up in Spain and she shared her tradition of gobbling grapes. When the ball drops at midnight, party-goers in Spain quickly gobble a dozen grapes for good luck. Each grape represents a month, so if one is particularly sweet, the correlating month will be wonderful. If, say, the third grape is sour, your March may be unlucky. At my friend’s New Year’s Eve parties, she pokes the grapes onto a bamboo skewer and then uses this like a giant stir stick in each guest’s champagne flute. It’s a lovely presentation – until it’s time to gobble. The revelers try to get all the grapes into their mouth at once. It’s literally a mouthful and then some!
Soba Noodle Soup
In Japan, party-goers enjoy soba noodle soup on New Year’s Day. The long buckwheat noodles are known to symbolize longevity. Here’s a delicious recipe I tried from the Coborn’s website.
- 6 to 8 Cups water
- 6 to 8 Dried shiitake mushrooms
- 8 Oz. Package Dried Soba Noodles
- 1 Carrot, scrubbed and cut into matchsticks
- 3 Scallions, white and pale green parts only, cut thinly or on the diagonal
- ½ Lb. Firm Tofu, cut into 1-1/2-inch dice
- 3 T. Shoyu
- 3 T. Mirin
- 1 T. Minced Fresh Ginger
- 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. Sesame Oil
- In a large saucepan, heat 6 to 8 cups water (depending on how thick you want your soup) to boiling. Place the shiitakes in a medium bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let steep for 2 hours or as long as overnight.
- Cook the noodles according to the package instructions,* but undercook them slightly, as they will be reheated in the broth. Drain and rinse well. Set aside.
- Steam the carrots until they are brightly colored and just tender. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
- Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Place the liquid in a soup pot. Remove and discard the stems from the mushrooms. Chop the mushroom caps and add to the saucepan.
- To the mixture add the scallions (reserving 1 tablespoon), tofu, shoyu, mirin, ginger, and garlic. Simmer gently for 15 minutes.
- Add the cooked noodles and steamed carrots to the saucepan. Simmer a few more minutes, until the noodles and carrots are heated through. Remove from the heat and add the sesame oil. Serve in warmed bowls, garnished with the reserved scallions.
Cotechino con Lenticchie
For those looking for a little more substance, perhaps the Italian dish Cotechino con Lenticchie will be satisfying. It features lentils that look like miniature gold coins and pork sausage medallions that are supposed to guarantee good luck. The dish stands for prosperity and good fortune in the New Year. You can find the recipe here.
- 1 Cotechino Sausage
- 1 1/1 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Onion
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 2 Cloves
- ¾ Lb. Dried Lentils
- 3½ Oz. Canned Tomatoes
- 1 Cup Broth
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Rinse the lentils, then soak them in a bowl full of cold water for 12 hours. If you prefer, you can used jarred lentils.
- Using the tip of a skewer or a fork, poke holes in the cotechino. Place it in a pot of cold, unsalted water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook over low heat for 2 hours.
- In the meantime, peel and dice the onion. Place a frying pan over medium heat. Add a little olive oil and, once hot, add the onion, bay leaf and cloves. Once the onion is translucent, but not yet brown, add the lentils, drained of their soaking water and rinsed. Saute for 30 seconds, then add the tomato. Mix well and cover with broth.
- Bring to a boil, then cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft, but aren’t falling apart. Season with salt and pepper.
- Once done cooking, remove the cotechino and cut off any kitchen twine. Cut into ½ to 1 inch slices. Remove the casing and serve with the lentils. If you like, you can grind extra pepper on top.
St. Basil’s Bread
The Greeks have a delicious tradition of savoring St. Basil’s Bread, which is also called Vassilópita, on New Year’s Day. It’s a sweet bread that tastes sort of like a Brioche; what makes it really special is that the baker drops a gold coin inside. The person who finds the coin will be blessed for the New Year. The bread was originally baked as an act of charity by St. Basil, who generously helped the poor in a sneaky way. He had the church ladies bake the bread with coins inside so he could feed the hungry and surprise them with money without damaging their pride. The recipe is below.
- ½ Cup Warm Milk
- 1 (.25 ounce) Package Active Dry Yeast
- ½ Cup Bread Flour
- 6 Cups Bread Flour
- ½ tsp. Salt
- ½ Cup White Sugar
- ½ tsp. Ground Nutmeg
- ½ tsp. Cinnamon
- ¾ Cup Butter, melted
- 3 Eggs
- ½ Cup Almonds, chopped
- In a small bowl, stir together ½ cup milk, yeast and ½ cup flour. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Place 6 cups flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add contents of small bowl, salt, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ¾ cup melted butter, 3 eggs and 2 cups milk. Mix thoroughly to make a thick dough.
- Scoop the dough into a lightly greased 8x8 inch baking pan. Brush dough with melted butter, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
- When dough has risen, insert a clean silver coin into the loaf. Brush dough with beaten egg and sprinkle with chopped almonds. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 40 minutes.
Regardless of the country you’re in when the clock strikes midnight, there will likely be some revelers enjoying some sort of alcoholic drink. Here in the US, it’s common to celebrate with some sparkling wine. At my house, we grownups partake in the German mulled wine called Feuerzangenbowle. The kids enjoy mulled cider (sans spirits, of course). In Japan, they sip a cup of sake.
- 2 Bottles Red Wine
- 2 Cups Orange Juice
- 1 Orange, sliced into four thick slices
- 50 Cloves (or so) 4-5 Cinnamon Sticks
- Combine the wine and juice in a pot and simmer over low heat.
- Poke the cloves into the white part of the orange slices on both the top and bottom side.
- Add the orange slices and cinnamon sticks to the wine.
- After mulled wine is hot (not boiling), remove the pot from the stove and place it on a trivet in an open area.
- Atop the pot, balance a metal “stand” for setting the sugar cone onto (metal cooling rack works, so does a pair of metal shish kebab skewers).
- Carefully place the sugar cone onto the stand.
- With a ladle, slowly pour the Bacardi 151 over the sugar cone until it is fully covered.
- Then light the cone and enjoy the blue flames that dance from the cone.
- As the sugar and rum melt, they caramelize and drip into the wine, adding to the already amazing mulled wine flavor.
No matter where you are or which traditions you adopt as you ring in the New Year, I offer you this toast: To good health, good friends, and good cheer. Happy New Year!
Coborn’s, Inc. Communications Manager
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