Happy New Year! Hoppin’ John

black eyed peas

In Spain, they eat 12 grapes for good luck on New Year’s Eve. In the Southern United States they eat a slightly more caloric good luck trifecta of greens, blackeyed peas and hog jowls. I didn’t catch on to this good luck charm until college and hog jowls never sounded like anything I ever needed to eat. Personally, I think it has an image problem more than anything; neither “hog” nor “jowls” are particularly nice sounding words. But hog jowls are a lot like bacon; they are smoked and cured. Call them by their Portuguese name (bochechas de porco) or Italian name (guanciale) and the stuff would cost three times as much and fly off the shelves.

My Granny was very experienced with this Southern New Year’s Day tradition. She grew up in the mountains of northern Georgia. In the 1920s, when she was a young girl, it was customary to go out in the front yard with pots, pans and spoons and “make a big noise” to ring in the New Year. The next day she always ate greens and Hoppin’ John. She told me that blackeyed peas and hog jowl bring good luck in the New Year. The greens, usually turnip, collard or mustard, bring money. Granny said, “If you eat greens on New Year’s Day you are supposed to get rich.” She added that although she was often disappointed that her wallet wasn’t fat the next day, the meal still tasted “mighty good.”

So get out your pots, pans and spoons, go out to your front yard and make a big ruckus for the New Year. Then eat some greens and Hoppin’ John and enjoy a prosperous year!

Hoppin’ John

I love the name of this dish. There are many differing accounts of where the name came from. My favorite is that a man named John came “a-hoppin” when his wife took the dish from the stove.

Ingredients:

1 cup dried black-eyed peas
4 cups water or chicken broth
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 hog jowl sliced (or a few strips of bacon or a ham hock)
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup long- grain white rice
Salt and black pepper to taste

Method:

  • Wash and sort the peas, making sure to remove any small pebbles.
  • Place in large bowl, cover with water and soak overnight. (If you want to skip this step, you will need to increase the cooking time.)
  • Place onions and garlic in small sauté pan and cook until onions are tender.
  • Place peas in the large soup pot, add water or broth. Bring to a gentle boil .
  • Add onions, garlic, red pepper and hog jowl.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until peas are tender, about an hour (two if you didn’t soak them).
  • Add the rice, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and season with salt, pepper and hot sauce.

Serves four to six.