In the American South, black-eyed peas are common, but never so much so as on New Year’s Day. It is said that eating them on New Year’s Day will bring good luck in the coming year (or, alternatively, it may be expressed as “not eating them will bring you bad luck in the coming year”).
But one cannot eat just any preparation of black-eyed peas to obtain this benison (or preventive) for the coming year. One must eat Hopping John. This is a simple and delicious dish. It should be served with rice. White rice is traditional, but the nutty flavor of brown rice nicely compliments the flavors and adds a little chewiness. Both types of rice work well–but I’d hate to have you mess up your fortunes for the whole year by telling you to tinker with tradition. However, this is good enough and simple enough that you may not want to wait a whole year before having it again.
Happy New Year.
1-1/4 cups dry black-eyed peas
4 cups water
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed dried red pepper (or to taste)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
8 oz. coarsely chopped salt pork
Put beans in water, bring to a boil, and let boil for two minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for one hour.
Add onion, black pepper, red pepper, garlic, and bay leaf, and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.
Add the salt pork. Simmer, uncovered, for another hour, stirring frequently. Remove the salt pork and the bay leaf. Slightly mash the pea mixture. Season to taste (though it’s unlikely to need salt, thanks to the salt pork.) Serve with boiled white rice. Serves 6.
Note: Salt pork usually has a considerable amount of fat on it. Don’t worry. Because it’s simmered, little of the fat dissolves into the dish.
Salt pork is quite tasty—somewhere between ham and Canadian bacon—and can be enjoyed on the side, cut up fine and used as a garnish, or saved for snacking. While you don’t need to get rid of the fat for cooking, you definitely want to get rid of it for eating.