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Hoppin' John - American South's Traditional Dish

Hoppin' John is a significant culinary custom in the American South during New Year's. It consists of field peas or black-eyed peas, which represent coins, spiced with pork and served with rice. This dish is sometimes accompanied by collards or other cooked greens, symbolizing money because to their green color, and cornbread, which represents gold due to its color. According to tradition, consuming this dish is said to bestow good fortune in the upcoming year.

The origins of this meal can be traced back to African and West Indian customs, and it is believed to have been introduced to North America by enslaved individuals. The recipe for Hoppin' John was first documented in 1847 in Sarah Rutledge's "The Carolina Housewife" and has since undergone various reinterpretations by both amateur and professional cooks.

Why is it called Hoppin' John?

The etymology of the name "Hoppin' John" remains uncertain, with no definitive explanation available other than anecdotal accounts. According to one account, there was an elderly gentleman named Hoppin' John who gained fame in Charleston for his trade of selling peas and rice. Consequently, customers started using his name to refer to the food he served.

Historians generally suggest that the word is derived from "pois pigeons," a French phrase meaning "dried peas."

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Photo: Food & Wine Magazine

Hoppin' John Ingredients

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Photo: She Wears Many Hats

Oil. 1 tablespoon olive oil, or use vegetable oil, for cooking the vegetables.

Vegetables. Use 1 large onion, 1 large green bell pepper, 1 stalk of celery (the Cajun Holy Trinity), along with 2 cloves garlic. I also add in 1 jalapeno pepper for extra flavor and some heat. Tasty!

Smoked Ham. I use 1 pound of smoked ham, usually tasso ham, though you can use andouillle or other cuts of pork.

Seasonings. I use 2 tablespoons of my own Cajun seasoning blend, though use your favorite. If you think it will be too spicy, only use 1 tablespoon. You can also use salt and black pepper to taste. Sometimes I toss in a bay leaf or two.

Black Eyed Peas. 1 pound black eyed peas sorted through, rinsed, soaked and drained

Chicken Stock. 4 cups chicken broth or more as needed, though you can use other stocks or broths, such as vegetable or beef.

Rice. Cooked white rice for serving. I prefer to cook them separately. Brown rice is good for this recipe, if you’d prefer.

For Serving. Chopped parsley or green onions and crushed red pepper for serving, as Chilli Peper reports.

How to Make Hoppin' John?

First, heat a large pot to medium heat and add in a bit of olive oil.

Cook down the onions, peppers and celery until they are nicely softened.

Add in a bit of garlic and smoked ham (or whatever pork you’re using), and heat them through.

Add in your Cajun seasonings along with your pre-soaked black eyed peas and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.

Simmer the beans for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, or until the beans are nicely softened, but not mushy. We don’t want no mushy beans!

Serve it over rice.


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Photo: Epicurious

There are numerous ways to prepare this dish, as previously mentioned, but one major disagreement is whether or not the rice and beans should be cooked together. or prepare it in a different way?

You have the option. Again, the choice is yours. I've read that the rice is traditionally cooked with the beans and the broth, but there are arguments for both methods. I decided to cook the rice in separate batches for aesthetic reasons.

Sometimes I serve the beans as the main course, but you can cook the rice for the last 30 minutes or so in the pot.

But Hoppin' John is awesome in every aspect!

Recipe Variation

Greens. Popular variants include adding collard greens or spinach to the dish, in addition to selecting the type of pork and deciding whether or not to cook the rice with the beans. Any type of green will do. Think of mustard greens, kale, Swiss chard, etc.

Tomatoes. I’ve made hoppin’ john with diced tomatoes and loved it. Give that version a try.

Using the jalapeno pepper for a bit of heat and flavor, but bell peppers are great for flavor alone. Consider hotter peppers to please your palate.

Cheese. Some people like to include cheese. Just a bit sprinkled over the top.

The Beans. Instead of using dried black-eyed peas in this recipe, you can substitute canned or frozen peas. Simply follow the recipe and cook until the potatoes are tender. In my opinion, using dried beans will result in a more flavorful dish because they take longer to cook and develop flavor.

Slow Cooker. Hoppin' John can also be prepared in a slow cooker. To accomplish this, first reduce the cooking time of the veggies in the skillet and then combine them with the other ingredients in your slow cooker or crock pot. Cook for four to five hours on high or eight to ten hours on low, or until the beans are tender but not mushy.

What do the US people do on New Year's Day?

New Year's Eve begins at midnight with fireworks, celebrations, and special events—many of which are broadcast on television. Few people are required to work on the actual day. Many people use today to recuperate from the festivities of New Year's Eve the night before. Special football games are played and parades are held in some towns and cities.

The first baby born in the new year is usually commemorated with presents for the parents and appearances in local news programs and publications. New Year's resolutions are common. Usually, these are vows made to oneself that they would make changes in their own lives. Typical New Year's resolutions include giving up alcohol or tobacco, losing weight, increasing exercise, or adopting healthier habits.

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