Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is an old Southern tradition. In fact black-eyed peas have been a symbol of luck and prosperity since Biblical times at least. Here’s a delicious way to enjoy their tasty, lucky goodness this year.
Regional Food Traditions
Hoppin’ John is a traditional New Year’s dish from the American South made with bacon, salt pork or hog jowl, black-eyed peas, greens like collards or kale, and sometimes rice. The peas, since they swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represent positive motion.
Some people believe you should cook your New Year’s Hoppin’ John recipe with a new dime or penny, or add it to the pot before serving. The person who finds the coin in their portion will be extra lucky that year.
Some say you should eat exactly 365 peas on New Year’s Day. If you eat any less, you’ll only be lucky for that many days. (I guess on leap years, you need to eat an extra pea.) And of course, if you eat any more than 365 peas, it turns those extra days into bad luck.
Some say you should leave one pea on your plate, to share your luck with someone else. Others say if you don’t eat every pea on your plate, your luck will be bad. It’s also said that if you eat only black-eyed peas, and skip the pork, collard greens and the accompaniments, the luck won’t stick. They all work together or not at all.
But mythology notwithstanding, this Hoppin’ John recipe is fast, easy, yummy and nutritious, so we enjoy this dish (without the dime) anytime greens are in season—not just on New Year’s Day.
I don’t use rice in my Hoppin John, keeping it lower carb and grain free.
Note: If you are unfamiliar with salt pork, ask for it at your butcher counter in your local grocery store. It is similar to bacon, but unlike bacon it is not smoked or cured, and is generally saltier. It ranges in cut from lean to entirely fatty, and has been used in American cooking to add flavor to foods like baked beans or vegetables such as potatoes or green beans.
- 1 12-16oz. package salt pork, diced
- 2 cans or 4 cups cooked black eyed peas in liquid (or 2 cups chicken broth)
- 1 medium to large bunch organic kale, de-stemmed and chopped or shredded
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- Sea salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- Hot sauce, to taste (optional)
- In a wok or large cast iron skillet, sautée the salt pork until crispy and brown on the edges
- Remove pork and set aside, leaving the fat.
- Add chopped onions to the pork fat and cook until clear.
- Add cooked black eyed peas and garlic and sautée 2-3 minutes more.
- Add chopped kale and thyme, and sautée until fully cooked down, about 5-6 minutes.
- Return crispy salt pork to the mixture and cook 2-3 more minutes.
- Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce (if using) to taste and serve.
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