Happy Hoppin’ John New Year

We started of our New Year 2012 eating with one of my traditional family meals of Hoppin’ John.  My parents were both from the South, we always had ham for Christmas dinner and then seasoned a big pot of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day with the hock.

Southerners look forward to an annual dish of black-eyed peas at New Year’s. The peas portend good luck because they represent coins. Cooked greens are good luck, too, because they represent folded paper money. If you eat both on New Year’s Day, you might, or might not, get rich during the coming year.  Most recipes call for rice, but we never added it when I was a kid and I still don’t.

Hoppin’ John

  • 2 cups dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 bacon pieces or a slice of smoked ham, cut into bite size pieces, or a ham hock
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • cider vinegar
  • greens, such as collard, nero cavolo, purple sprouting broccoli, kale

Soak the beans overnight.  The next day, put them in a big pot with the diced onion and meat. Cover with water, bring to the boil and let simmer for about 2 – 3 hours.  Season with red pepper flakes, salt & pepper and cider vinegar.

Wash and slice the greens into ribbons.  Cook seperately in a pot of water with some cider vinegar and salt.  Add to the beans with some of the pot likker about an hour before serving and heat through.  Serve with cornbread.

Even better the next day!

Most food historians generally agree that Hoppin John is an American dish with African/French/Caribbean roots. There are many tales or legends that explain how Hoppin’ John got its name:

  • It was the custom for children to gather in the dining room as the dish was brought forth and hop around the table before sitting down to eat.
  • A man named John came “a-hoppin” when his wife took the dish from the stove.
  • An obscure South Carolina custom was inviting a guest to eat by saying, “Hop in, John”
  • The dish goes back at least as far as 1841, when, according to tradition, it was hawked in the streets of Charleston, South Carolina by a crippled black man who was know as Hoppin’ John.
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