With the New Year here, I am starting off the year with a traditional southern dish of Hoppin’ John. Hoppin’ John is basically peas and rice. As a child, my family always used rice from Arkansas farmers who were friends and would bring us huge sacks of rice when they visited.
The black eyed peas were always shelled and blanched in a small pouch in our freezer. Earlier in the year, a bushel would have been bought from the back of a pick up truck, a make-shift farmstand for a local farmer and for a couple of days, an old bed sheet would lay in the middle of my Grandma’s living room floor with a pile of peas pods on top. All the women in my family would pull up chairs campfire style around the mounded pile with stainless steel bowls in lap. Some of my most beautiful memories from childhood includes the cadence of ringed fingers rasping against the sides of the bowls mixed with the loud cackles of uproarious laughter at someone’s joke.
My family would eat Hoppin’ John with collard greens and corn bread on New Years Day. This tradition was supposed to bring good luck and lots of money. Regardless of the superstition, it has a sweet place in my heart.
Since moving away from home, finding the ingredients for this dish becomes a little bit of a production. Sometimes I can find dried black eyed peas which is preferable to the canned version of black eyed peas. The rice, of course, has never been recreated since my youth. This year, however, my husband set me up with Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice and Rancho Gordo Yellow Eyed Beans. An excellent combination! The rice is a shorter grain, stickier rice that has a nutty flavor. The yellow eyed peas are bigger and fuller with a less murky flavor of black eyed peas. Enjoy everyone.
1 chunk of Ham cut into 6, 2 inch chunks
1 TBSP Onion, chopped
2 TBSP Bell Pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup dried Yellow Eyed peas
2 cups Chicken stock
1 Bay leaf
1 tsp thyme leaves
Salt, black pepper, cayenne to taste
finely chopped green onions
Steamed white rice
In a small crockpot, add the ham and stock. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Add the black-eyed peas, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Place on lowest setting and cook for 8-9 hours, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice.