When you cook your black-eyed peas with rice, it is known as Hoppin' John. The southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas for luck on New Year's day is believed to have started after the Civil War. It was first planted as food for livestock and the fields of black-eyed peas were ignored as General Sherman's Union troops destroyed other crops. It became a nourishing food source for the surviving Confederates who considered themselves lucky. Serve them with either, collards, mustard greens, or turnip greens, which represents paper money, and cornbread, which represents gold. Adding a shiny impeccably clean penny to the pot of greens or Hoppin' John just before serving will bring extra luck to the one who finds it. Let everyone know to look for the penny so they don't choke. Flavor the peas with ham and bacon and the tradition is complete. These legumes are a good source of calcium, folate, fiber, and vitamin A.
1 cup dried black-eyed peas
3 slices bacon, diced
1 T unsalted butter
2 stalks celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ t red pepper flakes
3 cups chicken stock
1 t dried thyme or 1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 cup white rice
½ cup diced ham (preferably Virginia ham, optional)
Minced parsley, for garnish (optional)
Cover and simmer slowly for 15 minutes, add a little more chicken stock or water, if too dry.