I’m starting the first year of the second decade of the 21st century with an old-fashioned dish, traditionally served on New Year’s Day when I was a child.
Hoppin’ John is a combination dish of cowpeas and rice (AKA black-eyed peas) that appears to have originated in the lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia. Some sources attribute the first mention with this name to sometime in the 1830s but I’m positive this type of dish had been around during the previous century.
This is the recipe as it was prepared by my family, although I have reduced the proportion considerably as the original would feed twenty people generously.
Hoppin’ John western Kentucky style
6 ounces thick smoked bacon cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup diced brown or yellow onion
1 banana pepper seeded and the ribs removed (this is a hot pepper, Anaheim or similar can be substituted – the banana pepper was what my grandmother used)
2 cups black-eyed peas (if very dry, soak overnight and drain first and they swell so it will be more volume than 2 cups) If you have the “fresh-frozen” peas, skip this.
1 cup of medium grain rice
scant teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pint of water or more if needed.
In a heavy dutch oven cook the bacon, onion and pepper until the fat has rendered out and the bacon is close to crisp.
Add the next five ingredients and stir so most are coated with some of the fat.
Add the water so it covers the rice and beans, bring to a boil briefly, reduce heat so it is barely simmering, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
Check to see if the beans are tender and the rice is done. If not, add boiling water and cook longer.
Serve on a bed of cooked greens, we prefer beet greens but chard, kale, mustard are also good.
If you don’t like it so spicy, omit the red pepper flakes and you can substitute bell pepper for the banana pepper.
We always stirred a shiny new dime into the dish just before it went to the table. Whoever got the dime was supposed to have a very good year.