Hoppin’ John

Hoppin' John RecipeNew Year’s Eve makes me feel old. When I was younger, there was always some party or concert to attend. My favorite was a Big Band night at Bimbo’s 365 during our swing dance phase. Nothing, however, can hold a candle to the James Bond themed New Year’s Party I had one year. It was EPIC and is still talked about in hushed and reverent tones. These days I’m happy to be home and in bed by 10. I know. Sad. BUT, being in bed early means I’m well rested for the New Year’s Day Bowl-Game-O-Rama…and the food. Don’t forget the food!

Below is a recipe for traditional New Years Eve Hoppin’ John which is said to bring luck in the new year. To all our customers, employees, friends and families we wish you a prosperous and Happy New Year!

Hoppin’ John
Adapted from Epicurious
by John Martin Taylor from Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking
Yields 6 servings

Throughout the South this humble dish of “peas” and rice is eaten on New Year’s Day for good luck, with a plate of greens, cooked with a hog jowl and plenty of corn bread to sop up the pot likker. In Charleston and the surrounding Lowcountry, cowpeas — dried local field peas — are traditional. The classic Charleston recipe for hoppin’ john is a very dry version of the dish, but it is served with greens in their juices — or with a side dish of more peas and pot likker.

“One pound of bacon, one pint of red peas, one pint of rice” — thus did Sarah Rutledge begin what may well be the first written receipt for this quintessential Lowcountry dish. As the daughter of Edward Rutledge, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and niece of Arthur Middleton, another signer, Miss Rutledge was the “Lady of Charleston” who anonymously authored The Carolina Housewife&n bsp;in 1847.

Where the name originated is a matter of dispute, and I hesitate to concur with any of the pop etymologies. Still, I believe the dish arrived here with the slaves, who numbered in the tens of thousands in Charleston and on the neighboring rice plantations of the 17th and 18th centuries. Those West Africans were long familiar with rice cultivation and cookery, and the pigeon pea (Cajanus), favored throughout Africa, quickly took to the tropical environment of the Carribean where so many of the hapless Africans were first shipped.

The Carolina Housewife may have been written by a “Lady of Charleston,” but dishes such as hoppin’ john were staples in the “big house” that had been brought there by black cooks. Karen Hess, the noted culinary scholar, includes an entire chapter on Hoppin’ John in her treatise on the Carolina rice kitchen, but one needn’t be a historian to understand that the slaves taught the master to love this simple dish.

—John Martin Taylor

1 cup black-eyed peas
5 to 6 cups water
1 dried chili pepper (optional)
1 smoked ham hock (ask our butcher)
1 medium onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup long-grain white rice

Wash and sort the peas. Place them in a saucepan, add the water, and discard any peas that float. Gently boil the peas with the pepper, ham hock, and onion, uncovered, until tender (about 1 1/2 hours) or until 2 cups of liquid remain. Don’t let the peas get mushy. Add the rice to the pot, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes. Do not remove the lid

Add the rice to the pot, cover, and simmer over low heat (about 20 minutes). Do not remove the lid till the 20 minutes is up.

Remove from the heat and allow the rice to steam, still covered, for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the cover, fluff with a fork, and serve immediately.

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