New Year’s Day Meal Southern Style
My grandmother, Nannie, was a Grand Southern Lady. She taught me three things growing up, cooking, entertaining and history. From the time I was just knee high, she had me in the kitchen working with her. She would give me small things to do, while teaching me the important things in cooking. It was through these lessons that she also taught me the family traditions that were passed down for generations.
One of these traditions was the New Year’s Meal. Now there are many traditional family meals for New Years. I found out when I married my Midwest husband, Brett. Their traditional meal was Sausage and Sauerkraut. But in my family the meal was not only traditional, but it had meaning.
If you are from the Southern United States, you know what meal I am talking about. We would have Hoppin’ John, Collard Greens, Cornbread and Ham. If you are from anywhere else, you are more than likely thinking, what is a Hoppin’ John?
Hoppin’ John is a dish consisting of black-eyed peas or field and rice, with chopped onion and ham hock, seasoned with a bit of salt. Smaller than black-eyed peas, field peas are used in the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia; black-eyed peas are the norm elsewhere.
Eating this meal on New Year’s Day is thought to bring wealth and luck to you in the New Year. Each of the dishes had some meaning to it. The Collard Greens were symbolic of money because of their green color. The Peas were symbolic of coins. The Cornbread was symbolic of gold. Pork is a staple of just about every Southern meal, so it’s usually cooked with the black-eyed peas. The pork seems to be there for flavor as opposed to symbolism. Another thought is that eating these simple legumes demonstrates humility and a lack of vanity. The humble nature of the black-eyed pea is echoed by the old expression, “Eat poor on New Year’s, and eat fat the rest of the year.”
Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s has been considered good luck for at least 1,500 years. According to a portion of the Talmud written around 500 A.D., it was Jewish custom at the time to eat black-eyed peas in celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It’s possible that the tradition arrived in America with Sephardic Jews, who first arrived in Georgia in the 1730s. During the Middle Ages, in France and Spain it was thought to bring good luck to eat beans on New Year’s Day as well.
As for the Southern tradition, it is thought to come from the Civil War time period. As Union soldiers would take over a farm in the south, they would take all but the peas and greens. They thought the peas and greens were more for animals than humans so they wouldn’t take them.
I bet you didn’t know this. If you eat leftover “Hoppin’ John” on the day after New Year’s Day, they aren’t called “Hoppin’ John” any more. They are called “Skippin’ Jenny”. It is thought that it further demonstrates one’s frugality and brings a hope for an even better chance of prosperity in the New Year.
There are other traditions around this meal. One is that each person at the meal should leave three peas on their plate to ensure that the New Year will be filled with luck, fortune and romance. Another tradition holds that counting the number of peas in a serving predicts the amount of luck or wealth that person will have in the coming year. I think I would take that whole pot with that thought! Some people even throw a dime into the pot and believe whoever winds up with the dime in their serving gets extra good luck for the coming year. But if you don’t like to mix your peas with coins, another tradition is to place a dime under a plate on the table. Whoever ends up at that place gets the extra luck. No peaking!
So whether you have this wonderful meal for your New Year’s Day or not, I hope that you will try one of the best Southern recipes I have. It was passed down to me and we enjoy sharing it with you.
Hoppin’ John Recipe
- 2 cups dried black-eyed peas
- Cold water
- 1 pound meaty ham hocks
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Before preparing dried beans, sort through them thoroughly for tiny pebbles or other debris. Soak, rinse, and drain dried black-eyed peas. Place black-eyed peas in a large soup pot over medium-high heat and cover with cold water; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 to 2 hours. Drain and rinse beans.
Using the same large soup pot, over medium-high heat, sauté your onions then add soaked black-eyed peas, ham hock, and red pepper. Add chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the peas are tender (do not boil as the beans will burst). I like to cook my peas in a crock pot to allow them to slow cook. It also makes the house smell really good!
Remove ham hock and cut into bite-size pieces. Return meat to pot. Stir in rice, cover, and cook 20 to 25 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 8 servings
How to cook your Collard Greens
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A nice lesson in history and southern culture, very interesting. This Yank has never heard of these meals before. Good to see things are well there. 🙂
Thank you John! You should really try the “Hoppin’ John” ! It is so good! In fact, we are going to have some “Skippin’ Jenny” tonight! 😉
Love this, thanks for sharing your tradition… Happy New Year x
Happy New Year! Thank you!
Collard greens we call spring greens here in the UK. Our traditional new years day meal consists of cold meats, bubble and squeek (fried mashed potatoes and whatever vegetable you have left over, often brussel sprouts at this time of year) and pickles. I’ll give this recipe a try. 🙂
I love bubble and squeek! I made a southern style bubble and squeek using collard greens not too long ago. It was so good! Thank you for sharing your tradition!
I love the meal. I saw some greens today at store and almost bought them. I use bacon grease also. love the beans, but then again i love southern cooking
We just had our leftovers tonight for dinner. So we had “Skippin’ Jenny” instead of “Hoppin’ John”. You should give them a try!
I have eaten them before and love them!!!
I was introduced to Hoppin’ John when I married my wife, a beautiful lady from western Virginia. It wouldn’t be New Year’s without it.
You lucky guy! We love our New Year’s meal!
Hoppin John and Skippen Jenny are favorites. Our South Louisiana New Year’s tradition include black-eyed peas for luck, cabbage for money and pork for health! I had more than enough of all three — I am set for 2013 — bring it on! 😀
Happy New Year to each of you, and special treats for the sweet boy too!
Happy New Year to you all too! Hurley says thank you too!
We are set and double set! We just had our leftovers from yesterday! 😉
I want some. I especially loved the tradition. My deceased wife’s heritage required some sea food on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. I cannot tell you why. Your story gives the tradition some real meaning. Thanks for sharing. Did you serve this for the Plantation guests?
If you were here, I would be happy to share it with you! I could do seafood too! We didn’t serve it to the plantation guest yet since we aren’t open yet, but I am sure we will in the future! 😉
I learned so much from this post! Happy New Year, Michelle. Wishing you all the best in 2013!
Happy New Year Dianna and Motor Man! Many blessings to both of you!
Great post! Other than the fact that you use black eyed peas, how is this different from red beans and rice? Are the flavorings different? (I’m from MN, so I know nothing about southern food except for a few names.
Thank you. Yes, red beans and blackeyed peas taste different. Red Beans are more meaty and larger than blackeyed peas. I love red beans and rice too. Hoppin’ John isn’t as spicy as Red Beans and Rice. The only way to understand is to try them.
mmmmm cornbread. I hear cornbread.
I had some really good cornbread last August when I was in Alexandria, VA. Now I want more! 🙂
Well, once we open, you can come get some at the plantation! I will make some just for you!
Thanks for the nice cooking lesson. I also save a little bit of bacon drippings just in case I need them for something else :-).
I am so glad to hear that I’m not the only one. My younger sister found my cup when she was here for my mother’s illness and asked me what it was. When I told her, she looked at me as if I had three heads! And she calls herself Southern! :0
Love this post and thanks so much for the detailed cooking lesson about a real southern tradition!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You are so welcome! We just love this wonderful meal. Maybe next year we will have to make it bigger and invite some guests at Belle Grove to join us!
Very nice post! I grew up in rural Kentucky. We always had black-eyed peas and cabbage on New Years Day for good luck throughout the new year. I still continue that tradition to this day!
You know, you are the second I have heard that ate cabbage instead of collard greens. Must be more North you go, the type of greens change. I love this tradition. The smell of them cooking just reminds you of home! Thank you!
This looks delicious. We may have to try this one next year! Thanks for stopping by my blog to share.
You are so welcome! You should consider entering our Cookie Contest!
Just seeing pictures of all that good food makes me hungry! Yum!
I know, I forgot to warn everyone not to look if they were hungry!
Well, this post is delicious, and helpful! Didn’t expect a blow by blow with photos. I especially love Collard, Cale, and Chard, always make a real good addition to chili, soup, and mashed potatoes!
Thank you! I love pictures if you haven’t figured that one out yet. When I look at recipes I like to see exactly how its done so I can do it too! Yes, collards are so good! I have had them all of my life.
I loved your recipe for the collard greens! I get them every week with my bundle of veggies from my CSA, and have been searching for an easy-to-make yet delicious recipe that serves as a side dish for anything. Thank you!
Oh I would recommend this way! They are so tasty and it makes the house smell so good!