Traditionally served throughout the south on New Year’s Day, legend declares that a meal of Hoppin’ John, cornbread and collards eaten on the first day of the year will bring luck and prosperity in the days to come. Although its origins of the new year tradition are unknown, the recipe has roots in French, Caribbean and African cuisine and was likely introduced to the Southern states by way of slave routes. The first published recipe appeared in 1847, calling for a pint of peas, a pint of rice and a pound of bacon and the simple dish is still a staple of dining to celebrate the year ahead.
The origin of the name “Hoppin’ John” is also disputed. Some say an early version was popularized by a cook with a pronounced limp, while others speak of a tradition in which children would hop around the table before the meal was served. Perhaps most likely, when the savory blend of peas and rice was placed on the table, “folks came a-hoppin.’”
Although new year’s Hoppin’ John has been a lifelong custom for many, it’s never too late to hop on board. Give this recipe for the holiday favorite a try and enjoy good fortune and prosperity in the days ahead. Even if the superstition doesn’t hold true, it’s easy to foresee a delicious meal ahead this New Year’s Day.
- 1 pound bacon, chopped
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and drained
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups white rice
Cook bacon in a heavy pot over medium heat.
Remove from pot and place on paper towel to drain.
Cook onion and celery in pot until soft.
Add black-eyed peas and cover with water, then stir in thyme, salt and pepper.
Bring to boil, then cover and reduce to simmer 45 minutes.
Add uncooked rice and simmer, covered, 20 more minutes.
Remove from heat and let rest covered for 10 minutes.