Try Hopping John – it’s a must-have New Year’s traditional dish

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We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Now, we are getting ready for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day! We simply MUST have Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day, and will share with you some recipes for that delicious traditional dish made with blackeyed peas or cowpeas or fieldpeas! Whatever you call your peas (not the little round green English peas), you can flavor them with ham. Or use a smoked turkey leg if you don’t eat ham. My sister does that, and we all love it that way. This traditional New Year’s Day recipe of good-luck peas with rice is a universal favorite. This whole column is devoted to Hoppin’ John or blackeyed peas (a type of cowpea) and cornbread.

According to Mrs. Barnwell (Mary Royall) in Charleston Receipts, “Hopping John, made of cowpeas and rice, is eaten in the stateliest of Charleston houses and in the humblest cabins and always on New Year’s Day. “Hoppin’ John eaten then will bring good luck” is an old tradition.”

Blackeyed Peas from Southern Living All-Time Favorites uses frozen peas. We thank that organization for sharing their terrific recipes with us.

Fresh Black-Eyed Peas as published in The Progressive Farmer’s SOUTHERN Cookbook, is a simple pea recipe. Just serve over rice and you will enjoy it greatly.

Brewster Bray’s Blackeyed Peas recipe has been a favorite of ours for years. We found it in First Presbyterian Church of Apopka’s Treasures and Pleasures. We thank you so much for sharing.

Amanda Henke’s cornbread is the deliciousEST I have ever eaten. No joke. We made a big pan of it at Thanksgiving to make a huge bowl of Cornbread Dressing. What wonderful taste it has. The recipe fits in a great big black iron skillet. You could use a couple of cake pans if you don’t have the big skillet. We used her alternative to baking powder method that is included in her recipe. We thank this reader for sharing her wonderful recipe with us.

MRS. W. H. BARNWELL’S

HOPPING JOHN

Recipe from Charleston Receipts, America’s Oldest Junior League Cookbook in Print,

a Cookbook by The Junior League

of Charleston, Inc.

1 cup raw cowpeas

(or dried fieldpeas)

4 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup raw rice

4 slices bacon fried with

1 medium onion, chopped

Boil peas in salted water until tender. Add peas and 1 cup of the pea liquid to rice, bacon with grease and onion. Put in rice steamer or double-boiler and cook for 1 hour or until rice is thoroughly done. Serves 8.

PEAS, BLACKEYED (HOPPIN’ JOHN)

Recipe from

Southern Living All-Time Favorites

1 cup sliced celery

2/3 cup chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 (16-ounce) package frozen black-eyed peas

3/4 pound cubed cooked ham

2-1/2 cups chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

1 bay leaf

1 cup uncooked long-grain rice

Freshly ground pepper

Garnish: celery leaves

Cook first three ingredients in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until tender. Stir in peas and next four ingredients. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in rice; cover and cook 20 to 25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Discard bay leaf before serving. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. Garnish if desired.Makes 4 servings.

FRESH BLACK-EYE PEAS

The Progressive Farmer’s SOUTHERN Cookbook

Boiling water as needed to cover peas

1/2 pound smoked meat

1 quart shelled, washed black-eye peas

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Cover a half-pound thin-sliced smoked meat with boiling water, cover tightly and boil 15 minutes. Add 1 quart shelled, washed black-eye peas, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Add more boiling water to cover. Cover tightly and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 1-1/2 hours or until peas are tender and just slightly green tinted. Add seasonings to taste. Yield 10 to 12 servings.

BREWSTER BRAY’S

BLACK-EYED PEAS

Recipe from First Presbyterian Church of Apopka,

Treasures and Pleasures

1 pound dried black-eyed peas

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

2 whole cloves

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1-1/2 cups ham, cubed

1 smoked pork ham hock

(seasoning size)

4 tablespoons bacon drippings

1 teaspoon baking soda

Pick over peas. Wash and then soak overnight. Drain. Saute the onions and garlic in bacon grease until just tender. Place beans in pot and cover with water about 1/2 inch above level of peas. Add the onions, garlic, and the rest of the ingredients. Simmer about two hours or until beans are tender. Remove bay leaf and bones. Better if chilled overnight and reheated the next day. Serves eight.

AMANDA HENKE’S

CORNBREAD, SOUTHERN STYLE

Recipe from Reader of The Apopka Chief and The Planter newspapers

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

Dash* of garlic powder (*a dash is defined as ‘less than 1/8 of a teaspoon’ but I just do a couple of shakes)

Dash of cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon baking powder or… **see below for alternatives to using baking powder

1 cup buttermilk (if you are out of buttermilk, plain milk with a teaspoon of vinegar will curdle the milk in five minutes and you don’t need to run out for buttermilk.)

1/2 cup milk

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup butter or shortening… to be melted and poured into the batter… or, if you want to do it the old-fashioned way, use hot bacon grease instead! Daddy slowly pours while Mama quickly stirs it into the batter.

2 tablespoons butter for greasing the skillet (plus a tablespoon cooking oil to increase the butter’s smoke point)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl: cornmeal, flour, salt, garlic, cayenne, and baking powder (or alternative). Set aside.

Combine and mix buttermilk and milk with an egg. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Immediately pour this wet mixture into the dry cornmeal and flour mixture. Stir until well combined.

Melt the 1/4 cup of shortening and add to the batter slowly, mixing together until just combined.

Place skillet in hot oven for a few minutes (watch it carefully) until hot. This next step needs to be done quickly, and be very careful with the hot skillet. With oven mitts, pull the HOT skillet out of the oven and add two tablespoons shortening (can be butter) making sure it covers the surface of the hot pan. Quickly pour the cornbread batter into the heated skillet. It will sizzle and make a lovely crispy brown surface on the bottom and sides of your cornbread that tastes and smells so good. Using oven mitts, carefully place the heavy skillet back into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until brown. Butter and serve immediately.

When you get good at making this recipe, you will be able to orchestrate the heating of the skillet with the mixing of the cornbread batter. The quicker you get the mixed batter into the hot skillet and into the oven, the better. You do not want the leavening to go flat before you get it into the oven.

**Alternatives to Baking Powder: For folks who can detect the bitter taste of baking powder in baked goods (as my family members can), in place of one tablespoon of baking powder, use 3/4 teaspoon baking soda (also called bicarbonate of soda) plus 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice. The baking soda will neutralize the vinegar taste so it is virtually undetectable. Add the dry baking soda with the other dry ingredients in your recipe and add the vinegar or lemon juice with the liquid ingredients.

Another alternative to Baking Powder: 3/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar equals 1 tablespoon baking powder. This is what I use in this cornbread recipe in place of 1 tablespoon of baking powder.

Actually, plain old buttermilk and baking soda is a wonderful leavening agent for quick breads such as cornbread. The buttermilk provides the acid that reacts with the baking soda to make baked goods rise.

Baking powder is a much more expensive leavening agent than these alternatives, so this is more economical than using traditional baking powder and doesn’t taste bitter to people who may be sensitive to the sodium aluminum sulfate contained in some baking powders.