What would New Years Day be without Hoppin’ John? It’s a traditional dish served in the South on New Year’s Day, consisting of a black-eyed pea mixture served over rice. Hoppin’ John is often accompanied by cornbread and collard greens. Legend has it that the black-eyed peas are symbolic of pennies or coins.
Cornbread, which is the color of gold, is thought to represent wealth. The collard greens, which are the color of money are supposed to add to the wealth. Oftentimes, one adds a shiny dime to the Hoppin’ John before it is served. Whoever gets the dime is assured of good luck throughout the coming year.
Since this is an annual tradition, I decided to update the post from December 27, 2017 with current photographs and improved text.
Hoppin’ John – What a Funny Name!
I agree that Hoppin’ John is a funny name for a black-eyed pea dish. No one really knows how the name originated, although its history can be traced to the mid-1800’s.
One version of the legend is that name was attributed to an old, hobbled man named Hoppin’ John who sold peas and rice on the streets of Charleston. Another version of the legend described slave children who hopped around the table in eager anticipation of the dish.
One also has to wonder why Hoppin’ John became associated with good luck and the New Year. The most probable reason was that the slaves in the mid 1800’s would have time off between Christmas and New Years. The reason was that no crops were growing during that period. During the time off, the slaves would celebrate with the foods that were available: black-eyed peas, collard greens and cornmeal (used to make cornbread)!
Whatever its origin or history, Hoppin’ John is firmly rooted in the Southern tradition of welcoming a new year.
Ingredients for Hoppin’ John with Smoked Sausage
The two primary ingredients for Hoppin’ John are black-eyed peas and some form of pork. After that, there are numerous variations of this savory dish:
- Black-eyed Peas: I’ve always used dried black-eyed peas to make Hoppin’ John, but one could also use canned or frozen black-eyed peas. The dried peas need to be soaked over night to reconstitute them.
- Smoked Sausage: My mother always made Hoppin’ John using the bone from our Christmas ham. I had already used this year’s bone in split pea soup. Therefore, I decided to depart from tradition and add smoked sausage in place of the ham. I actually think that the smoked sausage produces a more savory dish. I always use Conecuh Original smoked sausage. It’s incredibly flavorful, but does need to be cooked.
- The Holy Trinity: Although Hoppin’ John originally hails from South Carolina, it’s a perfect dish to marry with the New Orleans’ holy trinity of onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic.
- Rotel Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies: I like my Hoppin’ John on the savory side. I’ve experimented with different seasonings, but think that the Rotel Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies contributes the perfect amount of bite and depth of flavor.
- Chicken Broth: Even though the dried peas have been reconstituted, they still need to cook in a liquid. You could use water, but I prefer to use low-sodium chicken broth for a bit of extra flavor,
- The Seasonings: With the other ingredients, the Hoppin’ John doesn’t need much else to bring it to perfection. In addition to salt and pepper, I like to add some thyme.
Adding the Ingredients for Hoppin’ John:
Generally, I make Hoppin’ John in my pressure cooker. For some reason, I decided to make it in my Dutch oven instead.
I cut the sausage into ¼-inch pieces. Then, I cooked the sausage over medium heat in my Dutch oven until it rendered most of its fat. This was probably the most time-consuming part of making Hoppin’ John, taking about 30 minutes total!
I drained the cooked sausage on paper towels. Next, I pressed each piece with additional paper towels to ensure that I had removed as much grease as possible.
After all of the sausage was done, I poured the fat from the Dutch oven. Then, I wiped any residual fat with paper towels. What was left in the pan was quite a bit of fond or browned bits that contain a lot of flavor.
Next, I added the onion, celery and bell pepper to the Dutch oven (Photo 1). I let them cook over medium heat for about five minutes. This not only allowed the vegetables to soften a bit, but also aided in loosening the fond from the bottom of the pan.
Then I added the minced garlic (Photo 2). I let the mixture continue to cook over medium heat for about 30 seconds until the garlic became fragrant.
Next, I added the can of Rotel Tomatoes and Chilies (Photo 3). I continued to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any remaining fond. After that, I added the black-eyed peas and the cooked sausage (Photo 4).
Then, I poured in the chicken broth, and stirred the mixture to ensure that everything was well combined (Photo 5). Finally, I added the salt, thyme and pepper (Photo 6).
Cooking the Hoppin’ John:
I covered the Dutch oven, and simmered the Hoppin’ John over medium low heat for a little over an hour. I wanted the peas to be tender and creamy. The longer it took, the more I thought I should have used the pressure cooker. The reason is that the cooking time is 12 minutes in the pressure cooker!
I served the Hoppin’ John over cooked rice accompanied by Southern Collard Greens and Louisiana Skillet Cornbread. Yum! Happy New Year!
Hoppin' John with Smoked Sausage
- 1 pound (16 ounces) dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed well
- 1 pound (16 ounces) smoked sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 large onion chopped (1-1/2 cups)
- 3 stalks celery chopped (3/4 cup)
- 1/2 bell pepper seeded and chopped (1/2 cup)
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 4 cups (32 ounces) low sodium chicken broth
- 10 ounce can Rotel Original Tomatoes and Chilies
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped chives or green onions for garnish optional
- 3 cups cooked white rice
- Cook sausage over medium heat in a large Dutch oven until done. Drain well on paper towels. Pour fat from pan, and wipe interior with paper towel to remove any residual fat.
- Return Dutch oven to medium heat; add onion, celery and bell pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often to loosen fond on bottom. Add minced garlic; cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add Rotel Tomatoes and Chilies; continue to stir to loosen any remaining fond on bottom of pan. Add black-eyed peas, cooked sausage, thyme, salt, pepper and chicken broth.
- Cover and simmer over medium low heat for one hour or until peas are tender and creamy. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with chopped chives or green onions. Serve over rice. Yield: 8 servings.