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Archive for September 19th, 2011

Hoppin' John

The much awaited swing to cooler temperatures turns thoughts toward fall and a shift in food choices. After hotdog and hamburger fares on Labor Day, hearty stews and rich soups replace light salads and simpler menus of summer.

Hoppin’ John seemed appropriate on a cool day in early September. This southern delight, mostly associated with the Carolinas, is a soup-stew with a powerhouse of nutrients. Possibly introduced by African slaves, its story goes back to at least 1841.The dish combines the primary ingredient—black-eyed peas—with sausage or ham and varied seasonings. Although traditionally served in southern homes on New Year’s Day to assure prosperity during the coming year, this dish is great any time.

Several tales exist as to the origin of its name. One story goes that as the mother brought the dish to the family, children hopped around the table before being seated. Folklore says a man named John came “a-hoppin” when his wife removed the dish from the stove. Still another account from South Carolina states that folks invited guests to a meal by the greeting “Hop-in, John.” Others claim a black man known as Hoppin’ John hawked the concoction in the streets of Charleston, SC. Regardless of the origin, its flavor tempts the palate.

I did not learn of this dish until my middle-aged years. I can’t say I enjoyed it at first. Years later at a pot-luck dinner and unaware of what I was eating, I wolfed down a second serving. The gracious lady who prepared it, a stranger to me, shared her recipe. In a brief time, Hoppin’ John became a favorite mainstay in our kitchen. Below is my version. Try it and let me know what you think.

Hoppin’ John

6          cups canned and drained or cooked dried black-eyed peas

4          cups chicken broth

2          cups water

1          (6.6 ounce) package long-grain and wild rice

4          cups diced canned tomatoes

1          pound smoked spicy sausage, cut into 1″ pieces and lightly seared*

½         cup chopped ham

Combine all ingredients in a deep saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook 20-25 minutes. Soup will thicken as it sets. Freeze any leftover portions for up to six months.

* Searing cooks out part of the fat. To reduce fat content even more, use a smaller amount and add more lean ham.

Resource:  http://stirlaughrepeat.blogspot.com/2009/05/hoppin-john-history.html

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