Traditional Hoppin John
The precise history of Hoppin John is lost. But most likely it comes to Southern tables from African slaves who brought beans and rice dishes as a staple in the early 18th century. The kidnapped Africans came from lands that grew rice and were to bring that knowledge with them. The staple diet in Africa included Black Eye Peas and would have been brought for the journey along with the enslaved people. The association with the New Year and “luck” is also an educated guess, but most historians seem to believe that the time between Christmas and New Year would have been slower with the crops in. It would make some sense that the meal would have been prepared then. It is also no mystery that it made the leap from slave quarters to the slave owners as slaves where cooks in houses.
The association with “luck” may have to do with the idea that turnip greens were associated with money and cornbread with gold. Or it may have just been lucky that there was less work on the farms during this brief hiatus. Today Southern homes know a good recipe of Hoppin John and recognize that a start to any New Year includes the traditional dish.
1 cup chopped sweet onion
1 Sweet Red Pepper chopped
1 Yellow Pepper chopped
1 Green Pepper chopped
1 cup chopped cooked ham
2 tbs of oil – Avacado or Vegetable
2 cans (or 1 bag) Blackeye Peas
4 strips cooked bacon
1 tsp Tabasco Sauce – add more or less to taste
3 cups cooked rice
8 oz sour cream (optional)
8 oz chunky salsa (optional)
Sauté onion, peppers and ham in oil in a large skillet until tender but not mushy. If using canned Black Eye Peas, drain the can keeping about ½ cup of the liquid.
Add the Black Eye Peas and reserved liquid to skillet with ham and peppers.
Add Tabasco and mix well
Make a ring of the cooked rice on your serving plate and spoon the mixture into the middle.
Add optional salsa and sour cream to the top.
Serve with Turnip Greens and Corn Bread.