Hoppin' John refers to a Southern US dish made of beans, rice and several other ingredients to make a flavorsome pilaf, which is traditionally served on New Year as a sign of prosperity and luck. This dish is considered to be a traditional dish of West Africa, which includes the use of field peas or black eyed peas, rice, bacon, and chopped onions in the preparation method. In one of the variations, bacon is replaced with fatback or ham and other ingredients may also include various spices, vinegar or green peppers.
Hoppin' John- Customary Influences
In coastal south region, this hearty meal is eaten on New Year with a belief that it would bring good luck throughout the year. In this dish, peas symbolize coins or pennies; and also at times a penny or coin is left underneath the dinner bowl or is added to the bowl. It is a custom to serve mustard greens, collard greens, chard, cabbage, kale etc along with the dish as these are believed to add to richness because of their color, which resembles money. Cornbread is also sometimes served along with the dish, as it is golden in color; thus representing wealth. The leftover dish, after the New Year Day, is known by the name “Skippin' Jenny”, which is further expected to bring more hope for prosperity, hence depicting the frugality of the people.
In other countries, like Spain and France, beans are widely consumed on New Year, as a sign of good luck. Hence, Hoppin' John recipe includes beans as an essential ingredient in most of the traditions. Also, it was a tradition in southern US to leave behind three peas after the meal to bring in romance, fortune and luck.
Hoppin' John Ingredients and Preparation Overview
A well accepted recipe involves the use of black eyed peas, ham hocks, chopped onions, red pepper flakes, water, salt, black pepper, cheddar cheese and white rice (long grain).
All the ingredients, except rice and cheese, are placed in a pan with some water and cooked for around an hour at low heat. Thereafter, ham hock is removed, cut into pieces, placed back in the pot, along with rice, and the dish is cooked until rice becomes tender. The dish is seasoned with pepper and salt and garnished with shredded cheese before serving.
Hoppin' John Recipe- Variations
A few variations of the dish are explained here:
- The African people residing in US include rice and beans as the main ingredients in the preparation of the dish.
- Regional recipe variations make use of black eye peas in place of beans.
- In brazil black turtle beans are used in the preparation of Hoppin' John dish.