Hoppin’ John, Greens & Cornbread

Happy New Year!  Starting the new year with a mess of greens, Hoppin’ John or black-eyed peas and corn bread is a southern tradition said to bring you luck and prosperity in the New Year.  According to tradition you are to have 365 peas (one for each day of the year), yellow corn bread to represent gold and greens to represent folded money in your wallet.  I have to wonder how this tradition really got started because to me this seems like the perfect meal to get you back in form after a night of celebrating, just saying…

I have to admit, last year I just opened up a can of black-eyed peas (gasp).  But this year, inspired by my Christmas holiday in Charleston, I wanted to do this traditional dish right.

In Charleston I discovered the Carolina Plantation Rice company.  Best known for reintroducing Carolina Gold rice in 1996, today they produce a variety of heritage grains  including cowpeas.  You can order any of their products through their website or if you’re in Charleston stop by Charleston Cooks! a fantastic kitchen store that features local products and a cooking school.  You can see here that I came home with more than just cowpeas.

My kind of souvenirs.

I tried two recipes for Hoppin’ John.  One from Hoppin’ John himself, John Martin Taylor, and one from the back of the Carolina Plantation Rice cowpea bag.  The Carolina Plantation Rice recipe won but the cornbread and greens are from John Martin Taylor’s book, Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking.  Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Carolina Plantation Rice’s Hoppin’ John

Serves 6

1 cup cowpeas

1 cup long grain white rice

Your choice of the following:

2-3 slices of salt pork or bacon

1 smoked ham hock

1 slice of country ham with fat

salt and pepper to taste

1 cube ham bouillon (optional)

Rinse cowpeas thoroughly then soak in cold water for 3 to 4 hours. Drain. In a medium pan or dutch oven, add cowpeas, your choice of meat, and bouillon with 3 cups of fresh water.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until tender (about 45 minutes to an hour).  When peas are tender, remove meat and drain, reserving pot liquor.

Add back to pan, peas, 1 cup raw rice, 2 cups of the reserved pot liquor, season with salt and pepper if needed.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer for about 18 minutes, do not remove the lid during this time.  While rice is cooking, chop meat.  After 18 minutes, remove lid, add chopped meat, stir with fork and serve.

Skillet Corn Bread

1 large egg

2 cups buttermilk

1 3/4 cups cornmeal

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons strained bacon grease

1 scant teaspoon baking powder

1 scant teaspoon salt

1 scant teaspoon baking soda

Mix the egg into the buttermilk, then add the cornmeal and beat it well into the batter, which should be thin. Put enough bacon grease in the skillet to coat the bottom and sides with a thin-film, then put it in a cold oven and begin preheating the oven to 450 degrees.  When the oven has reached 450 degrees, the bacon grease should be just at the point of smoking.  Add the baking powder, salt and soda to the batter, beat in well, and pour the batter all at once into the hot pan.  Return to the oven to bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the top just begins to brown.  Turn the load out on a plate and serve.

If you don’t have a seasoned cast iron skillet the nice people at Lodge Cast Iron will sell you a pre-seasoned pan.

Collard Greens

serves 10-12

1 gallon water

1/2 pound smoked pork neck bones*

1 bunch (about 8 plants, or 5 pound uncleaned) greens

1 dried hot pepper (optional)

Put the water and smoked pork in a pot and boil, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until the water is pleasantly flavored.  In the meantime, clean the collard greens and remove the tough center stems.  You will end up with only about 3 pounds of greens after removing the stems.

Tear the greens into pieces about the size of your palm and add them to the water, with the hot pepper, if desired.  Simmer the greens, uncovered, until they are very soft, or to taste.  Collards can take as long as 2 hours.  Serve with hot pepper vinegar.

*I substituted smoked turkey wings.

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3 responses to “Hoppin’ John, Greens & Cornbread

  1. Good info. Thanks for the education! I never know what was behind the tradition. I guess I’m too late, but maybe next year. It’s funny, we carried that brand of grits and I never bought a bag. I wonder if I can make cornbread with it? It might be too coarse. I might go into the store tomorrow and pick one up so I can give it a try.

    • Fran, thanks for the commnet. Grits is the first milling of corn, polenta is the second, meal is the 3rd and the fourth milling is corn flour. I’ve never made or heard of anyone making cornbread from grits, I’d stick to corn meal or for a cake like texture perhaps corn flour? I used Bob’s Red Meal Cornmeal and had plenty of texture to the bread.

  2. What type of peas were used in the pictured hoppin John?

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