Southerners everywhere eat hoppin’ John for good luck, but the superstition’s roots lie in the Lowcountry. Historians don’t quite agree about why it’s eaten on the first of January, but the one-pot dish of peas, pork, and rice originates from enslaved African-Americans on rice plantations.
Improvisation is encouraged—cook black-eyed peas in a pot with a ham hock, and then stir in rice with onions and spices, along with a heaping side of collard greens. For those in need of further instruction, we recommend this preparation:
1/2 lb. dry black-eyed peas, cow peas, or field peas
2 small smoked ham hocks
6 cups water
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 Tbs. dried thyme
1 1/2 cups rice
Rinse peas with cold water and pick out any stones or bad peas. Soak in warm water for 35 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Combine ham hocks and water. Boil for two hours and 45 minutes. Add peas, onion, black pepper, and thyme. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, or until tender. Add rice, stir, and simmer over medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes or until rice is tender.
Web Extra! For more fun facts about hoppin’ John, visit http://charlestonmag.com/features/hoppin_john.