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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Soul Food for a Year of Luck

There is a Southern saying "eat poor that day, eat rich the rest of the year".

It is a tradition in the South to eat black-eyed peas on New Year's day. It is thought to bring a year of prosperity and luck. Black-eyed peas were introduced to the the United States in the 17th century and grown as food for livestock. They are in fact not peas but beans (legumes). The crop grew well in our hot and humid conditions. It is thought that this crop saved Southerns from starvation during the Civil War. During Sherman's "March to the Sea" crops were burned and destroyed. The Union soldiers ignored the fields of black-eyed peas since it was considered animal feed. It then became a nutritious staple for surviving Confederates who considered themselves lucky to be left with some food and peas became a symbol of luck.

Hoppin' John is a traditional hearty meal made with black-eyed peas simmered with ham hocks or spicy sausages. The first written recipe appeared in The Carolina Housewife by Sarah Rutledge (published anonymously) in 1847.

There are many variations of this dish but this is my take on it.

1 pound dried black-eye peas
8 slices of thick cut bacon (diced)
2 cups chopped ham
1 chopped onion
2 1/2 quarts water
1 minced garlic clove
1/8 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
diced jalapenos (optional)

Soak peas in water overnight. Remove any peas that have floated to the top. Rinse and cook peas for 6-8 hours. Place bacon and ham in large pot and fry over low flame until almost all fat is rendered. Add onion and cook, stirring until limp. Pour in water, add garlic and seasonings, bring to a boil. Drain peas and add to boiling mixture. Lower heat, partially cover pot and let simmer gently for 1-2 hours until liquid has reduced to a savory, thick sauce. Add hot pepper sauce and jalapenos to taste. (We like ours spicy hot). 

Some cook peas and rice in one pot. I prefer to prepare the rice separately. I also serve the dish with a good side of homemade cornbread. 

 
Enjoy and may the rice bring you riches and peas bring you peace!

22 comments:

  1. After my husband and I finished watching a movie tonight, I decided to check out a few blogs. When I read yours, I said to my husband, "Guess what we forgot to eat today?" He jumped up in a panic and said, "Black-eyed peas!!" Then he ran to the pantry and took out a can of black-eyed peas, heated them up, and promptly ate them. I grew up in the north, so we didn't have a black-eyed peas tradition. But my husband, being from the south, would not face a new year without them. So he thanks you for saving our new year. Whew! That was close :-) P.S. I'll bet your homemade peas were a whole lot better than our canned.

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    1. Oh Toni, your story put a smile on my face! So glad your husband was able to eat his BEP before the day expired. Hopefully you will both have lots of luck this year :)

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  2. I never heard of this Southern tradition. Peas are the only vegetable that I don't eat, but are black-eyed peas really beans? They look like beans. The jalapenos I would leave out, but my husband would like the dish with them in.

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    1. Donna, BEPs are indeed beans and not peas. They are very hearty and have the consistency of a bean. Try them sometime. I know they are not as commonly eaten in Northern states but they are available in the stores dried, frozen or canned. They are a very versatile bean and can be used in many dishes.

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    2. I will now. I saw Pioneer Woman had dip recipe, but your dish looked much better, one I probable will like. I have seen them in the store, but since it was labeled peas, I stayed away. Funny, but I like pea pods, just not those big green peas. They should call them beans.

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  3. It looks delicious Karin!

    Love love your header with that smart looking birdie
    looking at me!

    Wishing you and your family a very very Happy New Year

    x Fiona

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  4. This does look good. I hope lots of luck and prosperity comes your way in this new year. Maybe I should have had some yesterday and see if they work further north!
    -Karen

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    1. It is a fun tradition albeit it doesn't seem to work every year, LOL!

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  5. Happy New Year! We ate our black-eye peas yesterday and will have leftovers today. I can't remember a New Year that we skipped eating them, and as for the promised prosperity? Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn't!

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    1. So true, but what would happen if we skipped eating them, a scary prospect! :)

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  6. Oh yes, we must have our BEPs! The hostess at the party we went to on NYE served them right after midnight ... had a big ol' spoonful to tide me over. Happy New Year, Karin. I've enjoyed visiting your blog and your pins too. Here's to a great 2013!

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    1. That's the spirit! Cheers Cat to a great 2013!

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  7. It's nice to hear about food traditions from all over the world, I have never heard about this one before :-)
    Have a good and prosperous 2013!

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    1. We are a bit of an eclectic family when it comes to traditions mixing English, German, Dutch, Southern (American) and Texan! Best wishes to you Helene in the New Year!

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  8. Yes, we always eat our black eyed peas! And cabbage! Going to eat more cabbage tonight - I think we're going to need it ! :) Never heard about eating poor, though. I just thought they were for luck! Happy New Year!

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  9. Boy you know when you live in the North when you don't see a BEP anywhere in sight...they are wonderful but just not something you would see in stores much and especially in restaurants...but would love to try them..I feel so deprived.

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  10. I've never had a traditional Hoppin' John, but I'm sure I'd love it. What's not to like about beans and bacon? ;) Might have to try this, and I think the Jalapenos sound like a must! Happy New Year, Karin!

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  11. I've always wondered what black eyed peas were. I'm not sure they can even be grown this far north. Thanks for the bit of history, if I ever venture south I'll be on the lookout for these.

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  12. Looks pretty tasty--and I ate supper already! Especially with the rice and cornbread. I love cornbread!

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  13. I never knew the history of black eyed peas--and I live in SC! Shame on me! (Although I was raised a northern girl.) Now, I'm craving cornbread! Your meal looks scrumptious! Happy New Year!

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  14. Looks like a great recipe...but then anything with bacon is great!

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