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Hoppin’ John: black-eyed beans and rice

June 8, 2011

“Big  Daddy  loves  Hoppin’  John.”
“Yais,  he  simply  adores  it! “
– Tennessee Williams, “Cat on a hot tin roof”

Continuing the beans theme, I’m going to present two American bean dishes, one from the South, one from the North.

As you might guess from the Tennessee Williams quote, Hoppin’ John is from the South – apparently originally from around Charleston.

There’s some competing stories about where the name comes from: from children hopping around the table before eating, or a saying, “Hop in John”,  meaning for a guest to sit down to eat, or a  cripple named John hawking  peas on the streets of Charleston.

Anyway, it’s supposed to be a good-luck food on New Year’s Day as well: “eat poor that day, eat rich the rest of the year.  Rice for riches and peas for peace.”

(Personally, that rhyme reminds me of an old Patrick Cook cartoon, of an old bluesman singing, “Pork an’ beans/Am number one/Beans fo’ de wind, and pork fo’ de fun!”)

Oh – as is probably obvious, the photo isn’t mine. I must’ve forgotten to take one that day. If I’ve infringed your copyright, send me a nasty email and I’ll take it down 🙂

What do I need?

Be aware that this recipe serves 10! So unless you’ve got a big family, or you’re happy to eat the leftovers for a couple of days, you could cut the amounts down appropriately.

  • A dash of olive oil
  • 1 large ham hock*
  • 2 large chopped onions
  • 2 or 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 green capsicum, chopped
  • 2 or 3 crushed garlic cloves
  • 500g black-eyed peas, soaked overnight
  • 1 ½ litres of chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt, pepper and cayenne to taste

*Don’t be tempted to use a bacon bone – you’ll find the result to be very salty. Almost Dead-Sea-salty – I’ll lay bets you couldn’t drown in it.

What do I do?

Heat the oil in a large soup pot, and sear the ham hock on each side for a few minutes.

Add the onion, celery, capsicum and garlic, and cook until softened.

Now add the black-eyed peas, stock, herbs and seasoning to taste. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, until the peas are cooked. Be sure not to cook the peas too high, because the boiling will tear the skin of the peas. Patience and a slower cooking heat will reward you with a soft, creamy texture in the peas.

As you may have guessed, this goes a treat in the slow cooker as well. Just sear the hock and fry the onions, celery, capsicum and garlic in a frypan, then add to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients. 4-6 hours on Low should do nicely.

Serve with rice and cornbread, or any kind of good, crusty bread.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2011 4:39 am

    I do like the idea of this being “good luck” food – great use of flavours for a hearty dish.
    “Almost Dead-Sea-salty – I’ll lay bets you couldn’t drown in it.” – LOL!
    🙂 Mandy

    • June 9, 2011 11:29 am

      Yeah, it was pretty bad. I likes me salt, but even I had trouble with it when I cheated and used bacon bones. So I ended up drinking nearly a litre of water afterwards. Then I kept getting up all night.

      It was all not good.

  2. June 11, 2011 10:05 pm

    Great post. This is just how I cook black eyed peas, I forgot it even had a name! My wife’s parents are Southern and they like eating these on New Years!

    • June 11, 2011 11:37 pm

      I’ve been meaning to repost your Barbecued Boston Baked Beans recipe (which was delish, thanks!) as the Northern contribution, but I’ve been really busy the last couple of days and I’ve got no further than referencing Charlie Dog and Colonel Shuffle from the old Merrie Melodies cartoons.

      • June 12, 2011 12:06 am

        Ha, that sounds hilarious. We had to add that southern kick though, with the BBQ sauce! We’re actually both from the mid-Atlantic so we sort of tow the line between Northern and Southern anyway.

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