Hello, Elva Martin here. I want to share a great New Year's recipe with you --Hoppin' John!
The South Carolina Encyclopedia describes Hoppin’ John as “a pilaf made with beans and rice.” Typical of the one-pot cooking of the South Carolina Low Country, the Hoppin' John recipe is said to have come directly to America from West Africa.
The original Charleston version called for “one pound of bacon, one pint of red peas, one pint of rice.” Red peas are cowpeas or dried field peas and were used as cattle feed. Like black-eyed peas, they are not peas but legumes (beans). The culinary scholar Karen Hess said she believes that both recipe and name are derived from Hindi, Persian, and Malay words that mean, simply, “cooked rice and beans.” Whatever the origins, the dish, originally made with pigeon peas in West Africa, became a favorite of the colonial rice plantation owners as well as the enslaved.
The first written appearance of the recipe in English was in Sarah Rutledge’s The Carolina Housewife, or House and Home by a Lady of Charleston, published anonymously in 1847.
Black-eyed peas eventually became the favorite bean used in the South. New Southern Cooking author Natalie Dupree said that the black-eyed peas are said to represent each Confederate soldier who died for the South during the Civil War.
On the day after New Year's Day, leftover "Hoppin' John" is called "Skippin' Jenny," and further demonstrates one's frugality, bringing a hope for an even better chance of prosperity in the coming year.
For New Year’s Day or any day Hoppin’ John can be the perfect change of pace for you and your family. It can be a meal in one pot with easy clean up. It’s a hearty, protein rich and low-fat meal. What’s to not like about that? This recipe serves eight but leftovers can easily be frozen for another meal. Here’s the pork version with alternate healthy chicken bouillon that I like to use. (I do make sure I buy bouillon without msg)
¼ lb. ham hock (or substitute 3 bouillon cubes and 1 tbs. vegetable or olive oil)
6 cups water
1 pkg. (16 oz.) frozen Blackeye Peas
2 cups uncooked long-grain rice *
1 cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped green pepper
2 cloves of garlic minced or ½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 can petite cut tomatoes
If using the ham hock, simmer it first alone in the water about an hour in a Dutch oven or large pot. Remove it and cut meat from bone. Replace the meat (or substitute above) and all the rest of the ingredients except the tomatoes in the Dutch oven. Bring to boil and simmer about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes during last 10 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf. Serve in bowls with cornbread and a side of collards for the New Year.
* I prefer to use Instant Brown Rice which I cook separately. I reduce the water in the rest of the recipe to about three or four cups. I spread the cooked rice on a deep plate or in a spaghetti dish and add the bean and tomato mixture as a topping.
Have you tried Hoppin John? Do you have a different recipe or another favorite New Year’s recipe from Colonial times? Leave a comment. Thanks for stopping by and have a blessed, healthy New Year.
Elva Cobb Martin is a freelance writer and Bible teacher. She is president of the of the American Christian Fiction Writers new South Carolina Chapter. She has been published in Decision, Charisma, and Home Life and is currently working on an inspirational novel. She lives in Anderson, South Carolina, with her family. She can be reached through her web site www.elvamartin.com and she blogs on the Golden Age of Piracy and other writing topics at http://carolinaromancewithelvamartin.blogspot.com You can connect with her on Face Book and Twitter @Elvacobbmartin.