New Year's Best Hoppin' John Recipe

New Year's Best Hoppin' John
We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.  ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

I am cooking up a huge pot of Hoppin' John to bring forth all the good fortune this year has to offer. Hoppin' John is traditionally served throughout the south on New Year's Day, and consists of black-eyed peas, rice, ham hock, and various spices. This rich dish is closely related to other dishes made throughout the Caribbean, Africa, and France, and although the exact origins are uncertain, it is thought to have been brought to America by African slaves that worked in rice plantations.

Black-eyed peas were first brought to America in the 1600's and were a major crop in the south by the 1700s. Traditionally this rich dish is a high point of New Year's Day, with a shiny dime buried among the black-eyed peas before serving. Whoever gets the coin in his or her portion is assured good luck and prosperity throughout the year.

For maximum good luck, the first thing that should be eaten on New Year's Day is Hoppin' John. In my family, as in many others, it is a tradition to toast each other with wine at the stroke of midnight and eat a bowl of black-eyed peas. Some say if it is served with collard greens you might, or might not, get rich during the coming year. Sounds random.

My Hoppin' John recipe is from the Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2005 Cookbook by Heather Averett. Yield is 8 servings (serving size about 1 cup),Calories: 226, Fat: 2.7g

Hoppin' John

  • 1      tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2/3  cup chopped onion
  • 1/2  cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/3  cup chopped celery
  • 2     garlic cloves, minced
  • 1     teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1     teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2  teaspon salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2     bay leaves
  • 4     cups water
  • 2     smoked ham hocks (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1     (16-ounce) bag frozen black-eyed peas
  • 1     cup uncooked jasmine or basmati rice
  • 3/4  cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/3  cup chopped green onion tops 
1) Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, green bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. I don't have a dutch oven, so I consult with E-How to find a suitable substitute.
2) Add thyme, red pepper, salt, black pepper, and bay leaves. Cook one minute. (Oops! I wasn't supposed to add the red bell peppers yet!)
3) Add water and ham hocks, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Add black-eyed peas and cook an additional 30 minutes.
4) Remove ham hocks from pan and cool. Remove ham from bones. Finely chop. Discard bones, skin, and fat.
5) Add rice and red bell pepper to pan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.
6) Remove from heat and stir in ham. Discard bay leaves.
New Year's Best Hoppin' John
5) Spoon into a serving dish, and sprinkle with green onions.
New Year's Best Hoppin' John
This recipe is fantastic! Adding the red bell peppers too early has no affect on the taste, which is a huge relief! It just resulted in a less visually stunning finish. Hoppin' John is almost impossible to mess up. If I can't mess it up, I find it hard to believe that anyone else can.

Tradition says, "Eat poor on New Year's, eat rich the rest of the year."  May this be the beginning of magical happenstances and good food all year long. Happy New Year's Everyone!