Happy New Year’s
And that means. . .black-eyed peas!
I grew up in the South, and each New Year’s Day my mother insisted that we eat black-eyed peas. She said the black-eyed peas brought good luck, and who was I to argue with my mother? So we ate black-eyed peas, usually canned ones. They were okay, but I never looked forward to that meal.
My relationship with black-eyed peas changed a few years later when a friend introduced me to Hoppin’ John, a Southern New Year’s recipe that combines black-eyed peas cooked with ham hocks and rice. It’s really, really delicious—particularly when you add collard greens and drizzle malt vinegar over the top! And, of course, what’s a Southern meal without cornbread?
A folklorist friend from Georgia, Fred Fussell, sent me his traditional New Year’s menu:
Black-eyed peas – for good luck.
Collard greens – for folding money.
Pork fat – for plenty in the coming year.
Rice – because it’s cheap and goes so well with peas.
Baked sweet potatoes – for thriftyness.
Corn bread – because that’s what you always eat with collards and black-eyed peas.
1 tablespoon olive oil
large ham hock
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
1 pound dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
4 cups chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon thyme
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne or red pepper flakes
Steamed white rice or cooked wild rice
Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and brown on all sides. Add the onion, celery, and garlic, and sauté until the onion begins to get transparent. Add the black-eyed peas, liquid, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the peas are tender, stirring occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Remove the ham hock from the peas, cut the ham off of the bone and into bite-size pieces. Stir ham back into peas. Season to taste. Serve over rice.
If you’re adding collard greens, a great way to cook them is to wash them thoroughly, slice into big pieces, and sauté in olive oil and garlic until they are tender.
Put the whole concoction into a bowl and splash with malt vinegar. Eat and prepare for a year full of good luck!