Hoppin’ John with a side of Peas

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Preparation info

  • Serves

    6

    as a main dish
    • Difficulty

      Easy

Appears in

Seductions of Rice

By Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Published 1998

  • About

If you are from the South Carolina coast, chances are that on New Year’s Day you eat Hoppin’ John and collards. The rice and beans bring good luck and the collards bring “greenbacks.” Even if you’re far from the beauty and mystery of coastal South Carolina, Hoppin’ John is a pleasure to make and an even greater pleasure to eat, especially on a damp or chilly day.

Hoppin’ John is yet another version of rice and legumes or “peas and rice, ” this time flavored with smoked pork. Black-eyed peas or the traditional Carolina coast cowpeas (sometimes called red peas) are cooked with pork hocks or bacon in water. The pork gives the peas a rich smoky flavor. Then rice is added and cooked with the peas to make the simple “purloo” called Hoppin’ John.

Cowpeas are native to West Africa and are still grown and eaten there. They traveled to North America during the slave trade. Because the peas are so moist and flavorful (whether you use cowpeas or black-eyed peas), we like to cook extra. We serve the extra on the side with the Hoppin’ John. To make only the Hoppin’ John, reduce the quantity of peas to 1 cup, and halve the quantities given for onion, chiles, meat, and water.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups black-eyed peas or cowpeas, soaked in cold water for at least 4 hours, or overnight, and drained
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 fresh or dried hot chiles or 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 to 3 (1 to 1½ pounds) pork hocks or ½ pound Canadian bacon, in one piece
  • Water
  • Salt (optional)
  • 1 cup long-grain rice, washed well in cold water and drained

Method

Place the peas, onion, chiles or cayenne, and hocks or bacon in a large heavy pot and add 8 cups water. Bring to a boil and skim off and discard any foam. Boil gently, uncovered, for 1 to 1½ hours, until the peas are very tender but not mushy. Check occasionally to ensure that there is enough water and that the peas are not sticking; add more hot water if necessary. When the peas are done, taste for salt and add if you wish.

Transfer half the peas and liquid and one pork hock (if using) to a large heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and set the remaining peas aside. Add the rice to the saucepan and if necessary add a little water so the rice is covered by ½ inch of liquid (place the tip of your index finger on top of the rice and peas; the water should come up to the first joint).

Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking or burning, then cover and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes, without lifting the lid, or until the rice is tender, with dry and separate grains. Let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Slice the meat from the hocks or slice the Canadian bacon. Heat the remaining peas. Transfer the Hoppin’ John to a serving bowl and serve with the extra peas in another serving dish, topped with the sliced hock meat or bacon.