Hoppin’ John, Collard Greens and Carolina Gold Rice! Happy New Year Everyone!
I made traditional Hoppin’ John yesterday using Carolina Gold rice. For those of you not in the know, Carolina Gold was deemed the gold standard in rice for generations and was the strain that created great wealth in Charleston and the Carolina Lowcountry. Boiled rice tends to be gummy, so many folks use a rice steamer. But my stovetop boiled Hoppin’ John turned out perfectly using Carolina Gold. Perhaps its short grain allows for less surface area for it to stick together. Unlike short grain rices used for sushi or rice pudding, I suspect it has a lower starch content as well.
Here in Charleston, we use field peas or cowpeas to make traditional Hoppin’ John. Eaten with collard greens, this is the traditional meal for New Years Day eaten in humble cabins and grand mansions. The old saying is that the Hoppin’ John is for good luck and the collard greens for cash!
These dishes have deep roots in African American cooking. Despite that claim, the name Hoppin’ John is most probably a derivative of the French phrase pois a pigeon, “pigeon peas”, which when said quickly sounds like “Hoppin’ John. It is theorized that this West African dish was brought to Charleston in the late 18th century with the French Refugees and their slaves fleeing Haiti and introduced into the general culture.
If you feel inspired to make your own Hoppin’ John, the recipe in Charleston Receipts is classic.
I boil the field peas up with half a small onion finely diced, fried out salt pork or fatback, and salt and pepper. I make the Hoppin’ John using the pot likker from the beans and always keep enough beans and pot likker aside to dish some over the Hoppin’ John for those who so desire. The peas are quite tasty all by themselves!
For the collard greens, fill a tall pot with water one third up, a tablespoon each of vinegar and white sugar, and Lawry’s Seasoning to taste and put to boil.. Put in a pound of seasoning meat. I use pork neck bones but smoked turkey is a good alternative. Scrub and rinse the greens, then slice in ribbons horizontally, discarding large stems. Place prepared greens in the boiling water and force them down into the water if it looks like you have too much for the pot. Don’t worry, they will wilt and greatly reduce in volume in no time. Cover and simmer for at least two hours.