New Year's traditions are varied far and wide. Most of us celebrate the new year in some way, though, and Hoppin' John is a traditional Southern US tradition that I visit every year. My parents are both Southern, but I grew up in Europe where our New Year's celebrations didn't include southern traditions ... So why do I make Hoppin' John now?! Heck if I know! It tastes good ... maybe that's why?
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What is Hoppin' John?
In the Southern United States, Hoppin’ John is a simple, delicious dish of peas, pork and rice and is standard New Year’s fare. It's likely that that the "rice" part of Hoppin' John started in the Carolinas where rice grows very well. It is believed that both rice and black-eyed peas were brought to the US by enslaved West Africans who were already well-versed in their preparations.
In the South (and beyond), it might be Hoppin' John and greens, but many cultures have traditional dishes they eat on New Year's Day. It's some sort of strange "good luck" charm for the year to come!
Benefits of soaking the Peas
Hoppin' John starts by soaking the peas, then rinsing before cooking.
OK >>> let's back up! You can use fresh peas, frozen peas, or canned peas! FOR SURE!!! BUT for this recipe that calls for DRIED peas, I must insert this soaking tutorial.
The benefits of soaking is mostly digestive. When you soak a legume or grain, you save your digestive system the work of having to do the work that the soaking did. You'll experience less bloating and more absorption of the nutrients. AND, in my experience, the peas are creamier and more tender.
How to make Hoppin' John:
And now the fun starts ... with bacon!
There are lots of recipes for Hoppin' John and they traditionally call for ham hock, but I don't prefer it. It is strong in flavor and packs way more punch than I need for the amount that I make for those gathering around my table. I much prefer the slightly smoky flavor of bacon.
I start with browning the bacon, then adding in all the aromatics: onion, garlic, green pepper, celery, and seasonings.
After adding chicken broth to the aromatics, I add the black-eyed peas along with some chicken broth and bring them to a boil. You can certainly use vegetable broth if you are vegetarian and have omitted the bacon! Reduce to a simmer and let them cook till they are tender.
I'm not married to a southerner. I'm not sure exactly what he claims as his identity because he, like me, has been around the world since birth. When he smelled the Hoppin' John, he said, "Can I have eggs on that?" What?! Seriously?
But of course. Whatever makes you happy.
Other recipes you might like:
Hoppin' John - Black eyed Peas
- 6 thick-cut bacon slices chopped
- 1½ cups celery sliced (about 4 stalks)
- 1½ cups yellow onion chopped (about 1 medium)
- 1 cup green bell pepper finely chopped (about 1 small pepper)
- 1 Tablespoon garlic chopped (about 3 cloves)
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme chopped
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to season
- 8 cups chicken broth preferably homemade!
- 2½ cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight See notes
- In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until it starts to crisp.
- Add the celery, onion, bell pepper, garlic, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent, 8-10 minutes.
- Add the broth and black-eyed peas and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until peas are tender, about 40 minutes.
- Serve with steamed rice or cornbread, and braised greens, and Tabasco Sauce on the side.