The southern American tradition of eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day is thought to bring a prosperous year filled with luck. The round black-eyed peas are symbolic of pennies or coins. Sometimes a coin is even added to the pot, or individual coins are left under the dinner bowls.
Cooked collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, kale, or cabbage are often served along with this dish, to add to the “wealth” since the greens are the color of money.
Another traditional food, cornbread, can also be served to represent wealth — being the color of gold. [And because beans and cornbread get along so well together]. YUM.
1½ Cup dried black-eyed peas
1 small ham hock, or leftover Christmas ham
5 slices thick-cut bacon
2 cups long-grain white rice, uncooked
1 large onion, chopped
3 tsp salt
1 tsp red pepper pizza flakes
8 Cups water
Soak the beans overnight. If you’re making this as a New Year’s Day dish, just set the beans to soaking before you head out for the evening.
In the morning, or after at least 6-8 hours’ soaking, drain the black-eyed peas and discard the soaking water.
In a large pot, add the soaked black-eyed peas, ham hock [or some diced up leftover Christmas ham], 6 cups of water, and salt.
Bring the beans to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the black-eyed peas are tender, about 1 – 1½ hours.
Meanwhile, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon, drain fat and set aside. Reserve the bacon grease. Crumble the bacon. Try not to eat the tasty bacon bits while the black eyed peas cook. Perhaps cook some extra bacon for this purpose.
Sauté the chopped onion in the reserved bacon grease over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
When the black-eyed peas have finished cooking, remove from heat. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid.
In a large pot, add the rice, 2 cups of the cooked black-eyed peas, sautéed onions, crumbled bacon, red pepper pizza flakes, 2 cups reserved cooking liquid, and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer and cover the pot, over medium-low heat until the rice is done, about 15-20 minutes.
Serve with cooked greens and/or cornbread. Makes 4-6 servings.