7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Colonial New Year's Recipe: Hoppin' John

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 Whatever the origins, the dish, originally made with pigeon peas in West Africa, became a favorite of the colonial rice plantation owners as well as the enslaved.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.

In the southern United States, eating Hoppin' John on New Year's Day is thought to bring a prosperous year filled with luck. The peas are symbolic of pennies or coins, and a coin is sometimes added to the pot or left under the dinner bowls. Collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, kale, cabbage etc. along with this dish are supposed to also add to the wealth since they are the color of money. Another traditional food, cornbread, can also be served to represent wealth, being the color of gold.

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)

Hoppin’ John
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.  


  1. I've tried this a few times but the real tradition in my home is the pork which has its own tradition of luck on New Year's. I think I've had it every year that I can recall. What used to be Pork Roast and Sauerkraut is for me now Pork Roast and Stir fry -- that's the American way, right? the blending of the new and old and cultures.

    So enjoy your hoppin John (make sure it has some bacon if not pork in it) and have a super New Year! (I'm having collards today as leftover beans and greens Italian style)

    And will finish my last piece of Plum Pudding - there's the true link to my ancestry!

    1. Debra, I have to tell you I love sauerkraut, too! Wonder if anyone knows how it was originally made? And how neat to blend the new and old cultures in your current family tradition. Thanks for commenting and Happy, Blessed New Year! Elva Cobb Martin

  2. My friends and family usually eat black-eyed peas cooked with hunks of link sausage, rice, collards, cooked cabbage, and fried hog jowl. Of course, we have corn bread and whatever anyone brings to the meal. Good way to start the new year!

    1. Kay, you sound like a bred and born Southerner! I am glad you have corn bread. Who could enjoy a meal like this without it? As far as I know corn bread (and its earlier mush/pudding recipe) came from our Indian friends. My Cherokee great grandmother, I am told, cooked the mush variety every day, over an open fire. Anyone have the story of corn bread? I'm thankful someone passed it on. Happy, Blessed New Year! Elva

  3. Thank you for sharing the info and recipe. I had not heard of Hoppin John until I moved to KY 10 years ago. I actually made some the other day (the recipe came from the restaurant at Shaker Village in KY). I may have to make some again soon!

    Happy New Year! :)

    1. Karen, I am glad you found out about Hoppin' John! Thanks for commenting and Happy, Blessed New Year. Elva


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