I’ve been learning about this New Year’s tradition of eating black-eyed peas and collard greens for good luck. Since Laura and I have grown up with entirely different traditions, it’s been quite a fascinating trip for me. The recipe for Hoppin’ John I’m sharing today is by no means the end of my research.
So here’s what I’ve been learning. Spicy black-eyed peas, also called Hoppin’ John, is supposed to be eaten on New Year’s Eve. Some folks even eat a bowl of black-eyed peas right at midnight along with their champagne toast to the New Year. If there are leftovers the next day and anyone can be convinced to eat them, those leftovers are called Skippin’ Jenny. Some traditions hold that everyone dining on Hoppin’ John needs to leave 3 peas on their plate at the end of the meal to represent Romance, Luck, and Fortune. Some traditions suggest counting the peas in a dish of Hoppin’ John to learn just how MUCH fortune is coming your way in the New Year. If you add in collard greens to your traditional meal, then you can hope for luck AND fortune.
I have to be real honest with you. The idea of black-eyed peas and collard greens just doesn’t grab me, BUT I love beans and rice so I think there’s some hope for this tradition in our household. I have to further confess that there are just lots of parts of a pig I can’t bring myself to use. So all recipes that include hog jowls, fat-back, pigs feets, pigs stomach, etc. are just OUT. I feel real good about a 1 pound package of bacon in my Hoppin’ John, but if you like those things, you will surely end up with a more authentic version of this dish! Thus far, this is tastiest combination I’ve come up with is the following:
Hoppin’ John (Spicy Black-eyed peas and Rice)
Simmer together for 2.5 hours:
- 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
- 6 c. water
- 1/2 onion
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 whole cloves of garlic
- 2 small ham hocks or ham bone (optional)
After the black-eyed peas are tender but not mushy, drain them. Discard the onion, garlic, and bay leaf. Cut any meat off the ham bones and set that aside.
Add 2 1/2 c. of water back into the peas and bring to a boil. Add:
- 1 c. long-grain rice
Simmer 10-12 minutes or until the rice is starting to get tender.
Meanwhile, saute together:
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 3 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 onions, chopped
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 2 T. olive oil
After the veggies are about half sauteed, stir in the following spices:
- 1 t. thyme
- 1 t. cumin
- 2 t. cajun or creole seasoning
Sautee for another 2-3 minutes. Add this mixture to the peas and rice and simmer all together until the rice is completely cooked. This will take another 5-8 minutes. Stir in any cooked ham bits. In my house, this is the time to add
- cooked and chopped bacon
- salt to taste
Set this pot aside now and take care of the collard greens. So far, what I like best is to VERY finely shred the collard greens and saute them briefly in sesame oil. Then I stir these into my black-eyed peas to make a single dish. That may not be the favored approach for folks who grew up eating collard greens…which I haven’t. I’ll write tomorrow about other ways to prepare collard greens.
Serve with hot-out-of-the-oven cornbread. Add hot sauce if that’s your preference.
I’m still very much playing around with this combination of foods and flavors since some of them are new to me. Stay tuned as I develop this tradition at our house! Meanwhile, I would love to hear ideas for how these traditional foods should/can/must ALWAYS/must NEVER be prepared! Give me ideas; I’m wide open!
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