I recently learned through a NY Times article of an African American family tradition of enjoying black eyed peas and greens on New Years Eve or Day as good luck. The black eyed peas represent health and abundance and the greens represent financial prosperity.
According to the article, the tradition originated when European and West African worlds collided through slavery. Europeans tended to eat greens (kale and cabbage, not collards) for superstitious reasons on New Years whereas West Africans associated black eyed peas with deities. These dishes and rituals came together in America's South and the greens changed to collard greens, which grew well there.
Interesting fact, the first written account of this tradition was for a prayer and celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation on the eve of January 1, 1863 which is the date the proclamation became law.
I happen to love both dishes so wanted to share a few recipes I've found. It involves two dishes: (1) a traditional black eye peas dish called Hoppin' John, and (2) an epic pot of Southern Collard Greens. I am by no means an expert in either of these dishes, and there are families and chefs with far more experience and tradition to learn from. But I use this blog myself so wanted to record my own version of these recipes for me to use. Feel free to give these a try or, better yet, discover your own favorite recipe ideally from someone who has been cooking them for generations.
Hoppin' John Ingredients (adapted from a Food Network recipe)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large ham hock
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 3-4 cloves minced garlic (or 1 tsp dried garlic)
- 1/2 pound dried black eyed peas
- 2 cups chicken stock (or water + 2 tsp bullion)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1 1/2 cups dried white or brown rice
- chopped green onion and parsley for garnish
- Rinse the black eyed peas and rice separately until the water is clear. Drain and set aside.
- Cook the black eyed peas in a pressure cooker with 4 cups water and 2 tsp salt. Use the Bean/Chili setting for 20 minutes then wait 10 minutes before releasing pressure. Drain the beans and set aside to be added later. If you don't have a pressure cooker, cook in a covered pot on a medium low simmer for 90 minutes.
- Heat oil in a stock pot over medium high heat. Add the ham hock and sear on all sides. Control the heat level so it doesn't excessively smoke or burn.
- Add the onion, celery, and green pepper and cook until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook another minute until fragrant.
- Add the remaining ingredients except for the garnish which includes the beans. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot with a lid and follow cooking times and instructions for your rice (typically 15 minutes on the burner and 15 minutes off the burner for white rice).
- Remove the lid and fluff the rice and bean mixture. Test for salt and add some if need be.
- Garnish with chopped green onion and parsley. It's now ready to serve.
- 2 pounds collard greens (about 6 small bunches or 30-36 leaves)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large ham hock or 4oz bacon or 1 smoked turkey wing or skip meat altogether
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion or 1 tsp onion powder
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 to 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 6 cups water
- Wash the collard greens and remove the stems. Wash the ham hock as well.
- Add the ham hock to a pot and cover with water until fully submerged (about 3 cups). Cook over medium high heat for 45 minutes until tender.
- Add the greens with 3 cups additional water until the greens can be submerged when pushed down.
- Add the remaining ingredients and cook while covered over medium low heat for 2 hours until tender. Moisture should have soaked into the greens. If too liquidity, use a ladle to remove some liquid or continue cooking with the lid off until desired consistency.