Many people make it a policy to eat blackeye peas on New Year’s Day for good luck. We do, too. But let’s face it, I don’t think blackeye peas by themselves are very good, even when seasoned with ham and Tabasco. Many people just serve blackeye peas over rice. But this Hoppin’ John is really good and is a great accompaniment to many dishes. And it’s got the ingredients for good luck for the coming year: blackeye peas for pocket change and collard greens for folding money.
So where does a goofy name like Hoppin’ John come from? Well, I think the most reasonable explanation is that in Creole Country, where the dish originated, blackeye peas are called “pigeon peas”. In French, that is pois pigeons, which is pronounced “pwah peeJON”. Good enough for me.
This recipe is one of the best I’ve ever tasted, given to me by my sister-in-law Martha. Our extended family had it with crown roast of pork for New Year’s Day dinner. It was a huge success, and from now on, this is our Hoppin’ John recipe.
3 cartons fresh blackeye peas, or two 15 ounce cans, or two packages frozen
2 ham hocks, cooked and shredded (or leftover ham)
1 large chopped onion
1 green pepper, chopped
3 cups cooked white rice
3 cups thawed cooked collard greens
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more)
Score the rind of the ham hocks with a knife, and then boil them in enough water to cover them for 1/2 hour or more. The reason the ham hocks are better used in this recipe than the ham pieces is that the water the hocks boil in gets a great flavor that is missing otherwise.
Remove and drain the ham hocks, and when they are cool enough to handle, tear them apart, discarding all but the pieces of ham. Shred or chop up the larger pieces of ham. Meanwhile, if you don’t already have some leftover rice, fix some.
Boil the peas in the same water that you cooked the ham hocks in, until they are tender to the bite. (Canned peas will cook faster; dried peas take longer.)
Sauté the onion and green pepper in a little oil in a skillet for a few minutes and add to the peas. Add the ham, greens, and rice, and heat to meld the flavors.
Serve it as a side dish, or over corn bread. It’s also really good seasoned with Tabasco or with a spoonful of salsa on top. Enjoy the food and the good luck!