This recipe uses two foods widely recognized as being lucky if consumed on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. In the American South, especially, pork and the coin-like peas are demanded for ringing in the new year. White rice cooked in with the beans turns the dish into Hopping John, another Southern tradition.
This dish has spread to other parts of the country as well. We can also make the case for jalapeños being nominated to the ranks of good-luck foods: They can be sliced into rounds, symbolizing coins, and they are usually green, the color of money.
Those who eat this traditional recipe instantly receive the benefits of great taste and inexpensive nourishment. That might be the best fortune of all!
Jalapeño Black-eyed Peas With Ham Hocks
3 small ham hocks
1 medium onion, chopped, divided use
1/2 bay leaf
2 large cloves garlic, mashed, divided use
1 pound dried black-eyed peas (see note)
1 green jalapeño, seeds pulled out and sliced into rounds, or to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
Tabasco sauce, for condiment
Vinegar, for condiment
Simmer ham hocks in a pot with plenty of water (cover hocks over with at least 4-5 inches of cold water). To the water add half of the chopped onion, the bay leaf and 1 of the mashed garlic cloves. When the ham is falling off the bone (this takes a couple of hours of simmering), take the pot off the stove. Pull out the ham hocks and set them on a plate to cool. Strain the broth, then put broth back into the cooking pan, measuring to be sure you have as much broth as the package of peas calls for. If you don’t, add water. Add the black-eyed peas, the rest of the onion and garlic, and as much of the jalapeño as you like. Bring the peas to a gentle simmer, cover and let cook until they are tender. (This time varies depending on how fresh the peas are. If you are using fresh (not dried) peas, it won’t take long at all. If using dried peas, it takes longer. (Be sure to check them for doneness after a half-hour or so.)
When the hocks have cooled enough to handle, take off the meat with your fingers and chop it. Put it into the soup. Discard the rest of the fat and bones.
Season with pepper and salt, to taste. Serve with Tabasco sauce and vinegar, if you like these condiments with your beans. Also you might top with finely minced fresh onion and cilantro.
Note: Black-eyed peas are available fresh, cooked and vacuum-packed, and canned. This recipe is for a one-pound bag of dried peas. For fresh peas, make the ham stock as instructed and put in 2 pints of fresh peas. Cover them with about 2-3 inches of the ham stock. For canned or cooked peas in vacuum packs, heat them up and put in chopped ham as well as the jalapeño, onion and a little more garlic, if you wish.
Makes 8-10 servings.
From Bonnie Walker
This version contains recipe correction.