I have to admit it, when I first heard that Hoppin’ John was eaten on New Year’s throughout the American South for good luck, I thought it was preposterous. Firstly, the idea that collard greens will bring you good fortune sounds about as senseless to me as owning a money tree plant, (though, come to think of it, that may be exactly the reason why I’ve never won the lotto!) Secondly, the dish is based on deception, black-eyed peas are actually beans, and while I like deception as much as the next guy, I don’t tend to associate it with good luck.
But, hey, I was born in Ohio, I’ve traveled to the South many times, and I’m not going to let some stuffy New-England sensibility ruin my new year’s good luck. Oh no. I did, however, switch from making the traditional Hoppin’ John dish of beans and rice (and ham hock) to a wonderfully comforting, meal-all-in-itself soup.
The taste of the soup is delightfully “South,” and for some reason the collard greens conjure up images of lily pads and murky lakes for summer swimming (translating, nonetheless, into a great taste!) I hardly ever cook with already-cooked ham, using it mostly for lunch sandwiches, but it is a perfect compliment for the salty beans and collards. The recipe I was adapting from called for two cans black-eyed peas, but because I could only find one at the supermarket, I substituted black beans for the second can, blasphemy aside. After trying it, however, I thought the black beans lent a lot of flavor to the soup and wouldn’t make it again without them.
Happy New Year (I keep on saying that, huh) and Good Luck!!
Hoppin’ John Soup
6-8 servings//adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 T olive oil
- 3/4 pound cooked ham (with rind), diced
- 2 cups homemade chicken stock
- 4 cups water
- 1 (15oz.) can black beans
- 1 (15oz.) can black-eyed peas
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
- 1 lb. collard greens, stems and ribs removed, chopped
- 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
In large saucepan or soup-pot, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil about 5 minutes, until starting to soften. Add ham and sauté until a great aroma is released and the ham rind begins to brown a little, about 10 minutes. Add thyme, chicken stock, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the black beans (smashing them with the back of your fork to mash them up first) and the black-eyed peas. Cook, over low heat, for about 30 minutes.Add chopped collard greens, simmer until greens and peas are tender. Stir in vinegar and simmer 5-10 minutes. Serve hot. Leftovers will be even better.