I would feel remiss if I did not take this opportunity to mention a favorite dish for the New Year, “Hoppin’ John.” It has long been a favorite of the Southern United States and was always prepared at my home as well. No one really talked about it much other than they just expected to see it served on New Year’s Day. Because it includes small pieces of ham or bacon, I personally had concluded as a child, that we were having the dish because we were getting to the end of the Christmas ham.
The dish is flavorful and filling, full of rice and black-eyed peas or field peas (a little smaller than regular peas) and some people would substitute country sausage, green peppers, onion, and cider vinegar.
In the United States, eating this wonderful, healthy dish on New Year’s Day is thought to bring a prosperous year filled with good luck. The peas are symbolic of pennies or coins, and a coin was often added to the pot for some lucky person to find; or just left under each person’s dinner bowl. Various greens, including collard greens, turnip greens, Swiss chard, kale or cabbage would add even more wealth via their bright green color. The dish is served with fresh cornbread, the color of gold, symbolic of even more success for the New Year. On the day after New Year’s Day, one could continue to eat the leftovers as “Skippin’ Jenny,” and further demonstrate one’s frugality going forward into the coming months. All this effort was done with a hope of bringing further prosperity to all who had eaten the wonderful dish.
A recipe for “Hoppin’ John” was first published in 1847 from a cookbook, “The Carolina Housewife” by Sarah Rutledge.
All of this time, I have been under the impression that this dish was, well, a made-up dish for leftovers. It actually contains many good sources of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A and C; Iron and B vitamins. The beans provide a wonderful source of vegetable protein which is something we can all use.
Have a wonderful New Year’s Day and think about making this dish using the following recipe.
Hoppin’ John Recipe
Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 50 minutes, Yield: Serves 4-6 as a side dish
- 1/3 pound bacon, or 1 ham hock plus 2 Tbsp oil
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 small green pepper, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 pound dried black-eyed peas, about 2 cups
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 heaping teaspoon Cajun seasoning
- 2 cups long-grain rice
- Scallions or green onions for garnish
- If you are using bacon, cut it into small pieces and cook it slowly in a medium pot over medium-low heat. If you are using a ham hock, heat the oil in the pot. Once the bacon is crispy (or the oil is hot), increase the heat to medium-high and add the celery, onion, and green pepper and sauté until they begin to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add the black-eyed peas, bay leaf, thyme and Cajun seasoning and cover with 4 cups of water. If you are using the ham hock, add it to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes to an hour, or longer if needed, until the peas are tender (not mushy).
- While the black-eyed peas are cooking, cook the rice separately according to package instructions.
- When the peas are tender, strain out the remaining cooking water. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Taste the peas for salt and add more if needed. If using a ham hock, remove it from the pot, pull off the meat, and return the meat to the pot.
- Serve the dish either by placing a ladle-full of black-eyed peas over steamed rice, or by mixing the two together in a large bowl. Garnish with chopped green onions. Serve with collard greens, kale, beet or turnip greens.
Looking for more healthy recipes? Follow our recipes board on Pinterest, or take it one step further and set up a consultation with our Registered Dietitian to get started on a healthy eating plan for the New Year!
By Rita Larsen, RD, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Nutrition Educator & Diet Counselor