My favorite way to serve black-eyed peas is as a Hoppin’ John which is a pot of black-eyed peas cooked with a ham hock, a few vegetables, and a touch of something spicy. As with most traditional dishes, there are several variations of Hoppin’ John. My version uses ham hock and smoked ham or andouille sausage. The spice comes from Tabasco and homemade pepper sauce which is basically a chile pepper infused vinegar. The peas are served over rice and with my favorite side for anything served in a bowl – buttermilk cornbread.
Eating black-eyed peas and cornbread on New Year’s Day has been a tradition in this household for a very long time. Of course this comes as no surprise having been raised in the south. In case you didn’t know this already, eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is intended to provide good luck and prosperity throughout the year. According to Wikipedia, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day goes back to the middle ages which I found very interesting. Serving the peas with greens such as collard greens, turnip greens or kale, increases one’s potential prosperity because greens are “green” representing money. However, I like to go for the “gold” and serve my peas with cornbread.
When Hoppin’ John is served the day after New Year’s, it’s called Skippin’ Jenny, and provides even more luck for a prosperous year. If you are like us, you’ll have this dish on January 1 and 2 and a couple more times in winter, racking up as much luck as possible. Does it work? Who knows. We’re obviously not going hungry, so something’s going our way.
Hoppin’ John (Black-eyed peas) Recipe
Prep and Cook time: less than 1.5 hours (prep and cook)
1 Tbsp. bacon drippings or oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 – 16 oz. bag of frozen black-eyed peas (See Kitchen Notes for using dried beans)
1 small to medium smoked ham hock (about 1 pound)
6 to 8 cups water
1 – 14 oz. can diced tomato or 1.5 cups fresh or frozen, diced
2 cups smoked ham, chopped or 3 Andouille sausage, sliced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 bay leaves
dash hot sauce (Tabasco)
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups water (for rice)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup uncooked white rice
*Use a few dashes of the pickling vinegar from any jar of hot, pickled peppers over each serving.
- Melt bacon drippings in large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium low heat. When hot add the onion, bell peppers, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Add ham hock and peas. Cook 30 minutes. (Add additional water as needed to keep the ham hock submersed during most of the cook time.)
- Add ham, tomatoes, herbs, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Cook for 30 minutes or until the peas are done.
- Start the rice. (See instructions below.)
- Remove ham hock. Let cool enough to pick off the meat. Return the meat to the peas and discard the rest.
- Serve peas over rice.
- Top with a few dashes of pepper sauce.
- Bring 2 cups water to a boil with 1/4 tsp. salt
- Add the rice, cover, and reduce heat for a simmer.
- Cook about 20 minutes or until rice is cooked.
Serve with Buttermilk Cornbread.
The peas – Frozen peas work great, but if you have time, dried peas are best in my opinion. If using dried peas, you can either pressure cook the peas with the ham hock until “almost” done or cook the peas with the vegetables. Either way, it will add 30 minutes to an hour to the cook time. This New Year’s I pressure cooked the peas with the ham hock on New Year’s eve and then made the Hoppin’ John the next day. To pressure cook the peas, I soaked them in a brine of salt water for 4 hours, then pressure-cooked on medium for 8 minutes.
Canned black-eyed peas can also be used; however, because they are already cooked, they should be added during the last 10 minutes of cook time. In other words, cook the ham hock and vegetables with the seasoning for about 50 minutes, then add the canned black-eyed peas and cook another 10 minutes.
Ham Hock – If you can’t find smoked ham hock, you can substitute with a slab of lean bacon. Bacon does make the dish fattier than the ham hock does, so I don’t use it.
Smoked ham vs. andouille – Which meat I use all depends on what I have on hand. It’s hard to say if one is better than the other. We enjoy this dish with either one.
Vegetarian or vegan version – There are a couple of ways to make Hoppin’ John vegetarian/vegan. I’ve cooked dried peas in the pressure cooker with 2 Tbsp. chipotle paste and the rest of the ingredients (vegetables and seasoning) and it turned out pretty darn good. You can also substitute the meat with a vegetarian sausage. I’ve never tried it, but I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be good.
Leftovers– One of the things we like to do with the leftover peas and cornbread is to cut up some of the cornbread in a bowl and smother it with the black-eyed peas. Add a few dashes of pepper sauce and you have another delicious meal!
Another meal suggestion – Add ½ bunch kale about 5 minutes before serving and simmer until kale is tender. Serve as a side for fried catfish. Set a bowl of pickled peppers on the table and suggest to at the peppers with the catfish and spoon some of the pepper sauce into the black-eyed peas.
Here’s to a happy and prosperous new year!