Monday, February 14, 2011

Black Eyed Peas with Ham Shanks and Greens (Hoppin' John)

Black eyed peas are a Southern tradition. The custom is to serve them with collard greens and some type of pork on New Year's Day for good luck and prosperity. No two recipes are the same. Some use kale. I used spinach simply because I had it on hand. If using collards, the correct way is to de-stem them, stack them, roll them like a cigar, and slice into ribbons. Some people do thinly slice the stems. I discard them.

Some use smoked sausages, but most rely on ham hocks or shanks and most is served over white rice although some add the rice directly to the dish as it cooks. If you like bean soup, you will like black-eyed peas. This dish is so prevalent in the South  that this time of year one can buy pre-soaked black-eyed peas in the produce department of most grocery stores. A real convenience.

More and more people use smoked turkey parts for their beans. I stick with the ham. No need to raise the ire of Mr. Good Luck . . . Sadly, today, even in the South, pork hocks and shanks are difficult to find. I've been told China buys most. In fact, China now owns Smithfield Ham . . . Here in the South, we have easy access to smoked pork jowl--basically, it is a fatty, uncut, smoked thick slab of bacon. Many people cut it into chunks to use for Hoppin' John. I love it. In fact, many people just use bacon ... and lots of it.

Some people add the rice to the Hoppin' John stew; others serve the stew over the rice. Many do not use tomatoes, but I like what it brings to the party and, historically, it is accurate.

Soak your peas in water overnight, changing the water
a few times. I put them in a colander and place
that in a bowl. Just lift, rinse, and then replace the water.

There are a zillion stories about Hoppin' John along with ingredients and recipes. All are fun to read. This is just how I usually make mine (If you had a ham for Christmas, now is the time to use that ham bone!) By all means, do some Google searches and watch a few videos. Most are entertaining and informative.

Happy New Year! May your year be filled with bounty, success, and health!

Hoppin John
  • 1 1/2 - 2 lbs. smoked ham shanks
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 4 cups chicken stock or a combination of water and chicken stock
  • I often add a bit of "Better Than Bouillon" ham flavored enhancer
  • 1 1/2 cups dry black eyed peas
  • 1 10-oz. box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry or
  • 2-3 cups cut/torn fresh collards leaves, no stems
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped or
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes, broken apart
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon cumin seed, freshly crushed
  • 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped green onions
  • 1 1/2 cups raw white rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion
Rinse and pat dry the ham shanks. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven and brown the ham shanks on all sides. When done, remove to plate.

Ham shanks have more meat than a ham hock, but both
are inexpensive and filled with flavor.

Browning the shanks intensifies the flavor
and releases the fat in which to
saute the vegetables.

Add a bit more oil to the pot and add the chopped onion, celery, green pepper, jalapeno and cook until soft, scraping up the brown bits left over from the ham in the pan. Salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cumin, the chopped garlic and the red pepper flakes and stir just until fragrant. Add the black-eye peas then the tomatoes, juice and all. Add the chicken stock, the ham shanks and any liquid that has collected on the plate. Bring to a slow boil, lower heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 1 1/2 hours until beans are soft and tender.

Remove shanks from pot and allow to cool. Add the smoked paprika. Taste. If you'd like it hotter, add a few shakes of Tabasco. Re-season with salt, pepper, cumin if needed.

Pour 3 cups water into a pan and add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon dried onion. Add the 1 1/2 cups raw rice. Stir. Bring to a boil then lower to simmer and cover until done. Set aside. 

Remove the meat from the bones and cut up.

Save the bones. Using a small spoon or knife, remove the marrow
and feed to your cat or dog--they love it.

Add meat back to the beans in the pot. Now add the chopped greens and stir. The mixture will be like a thick soup. 

To serve: place rice on plate, spoon over the Hoppin John and sprinkle with the green onion. If desired, you can also sprinkle with crumbled bacon. It is traditional to serve with cornbread!!!

Notes: Cumin has a distinct flavor. If you are not used to it, add less rather than more. You can always re-season it. Hoppin' John is great served with any type of smoked sausage.