A traditional auspicious New year’s Day meal
Hoppin’ john is a traditional meal eaten in many places in the south and elsewhere to ensure prosperity in the new year. It has symbolic meaning, and at first, one might think it has something to do with being a very frugal meal.
But in fact, beans and legumes are often symbolic of coin and money. So it has been believed that if you ate these peas then money would come your way.
Another symbolic aspect of the meal is the pig, which is symbolic of moving forward, since the pig always roots forward when looking for food. Combining the two would ensure a year full of moving forward towards prosperity.
Believe in the old superstitions or not, having a meal steeped in tradition is always a good way to start the new year. How can we look forward if we do not remember our past?
Hoppin John is often made with black-eyed peas in Cajun cuisine, but often field peas are used in the hoppin’ john recipes of the low country. Either way, they are still peas and you can actually make this recipe with either one you have, when you do make accomodation for whether or not they are fresh, frozen, or dried. The dried will need to be soaked and cooked longer. I use fresh black-eyed peas in mine (at least I did today).
Using the fresh peas does have its advantages as it cuts out a lot of the time required to cook this. You can have this on the table in about an hour, which is much faster than starting with dried peas.
The seasonings in this are typical Cajun, with the “trinity” of peppers, onion and celery forming the basis of flavor. it also uses a bit of Cajun spice- in which I use Tony Chachere’s Original creole seasoning. But you can use what you like or make your own- there are tons on the market and many recipes available.
- 12 ounces fresh “quick-cooking” black-eyed peas
- 1 tablespoon bacon grease or cooking oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 8 ounces diced smoked ham
- 1 teaspoon Cajun spice
- cracked black pepper (amount to taste)
- 3 cups chicken broth or water
- 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
- steamed long grain rice
- Tabasco sauce (optional)
- Heat oil in a dutch oven and saute the onion, celery and bell pepper with the thyme, bay leaves and ham until the vegetables soften.
- Stir in the Cajun spice, chicken broth and peas; season with black pepper. Avoid adding salt until later so you do not over salt.
- Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until peas are tender and mixture thickens somewhat.
- Stir in the chopped parsley.
- Serve the hoppin’ john with steamed rice and Tabasco sauce on the side if you like.
- I also served this with cracklin’ corn bread and a salad is nice too.
Yield: 3-4 servings
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