New Year’s Eve Traditions: Black Eyed Peas (Southern USA)

Today, I have another lovely guest poster sharing their New Year’s Eve Traditions (well a New Year’s DAY tradition..) with us: Ruth Dawkins is a Scottish mum of one living in Hertfordshire, and she blogs about parenting, photography and politics over at DorkyMum

When I married an American five years ago, I was introduced to a whole new set of culinary traditions. My husband was born in Pennsylvania, and moved across to the UK from New Hampshire, but his mother was from Alabama and he spent many years living and working in South Carolina. The food of the southern States is hugely important to him, so dishes like fried chicken, pulled pork, grits and cornbread are now a much loved part of my life too.

The New Year’s Eve Tradition:

Without a doubt, my favourite meal that he has introduced me to is Hoppin’ John – a dish of black eyed peas and ham – which is served on New Year’s Day to bring a lucky and prosperous year. The beans in the dish are symbolic of pennies, and sometimes a coin will be added to the pot, or popped under the bowls on the table. In some families, diners are encouraged to leave three of the beans uneaten on the plate for additional good luck. {You MUST read this post by Stacy and her variation on this tradition. Sure made me giggle!}

 The New Year’s Eve Recipe:

There are countless variations on the Hoppin’ John recipe – where one person uses ham hock another will use bacon. Some people will add green pepper. In the Low Country of South Carolina cooks will use field peas instead of black eyed peas. The exact quantities and ingredients are less important than the love and care that goes into the cooking – this is soul food at its very best.


  •  1.5 cups of dried black eyed peas
  • 1 ham hock
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 red or green pepper (optional)
  • 2 or 3 sticks of celery (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons of Cajun or Creole seasoning (optional)
  • 2 cups of long grain white rice.
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Tabasco sauce to taste


1. Soak the black-eyed peas in water overnight, then drain.

2. Add the black-eyed peas and ham hock to a pan and cover with water.

3. Add a good sprinkling of salt, cover with a pan lid, and then simmer for about an hour and a half, until the peas are tender but not mushy.

4. Remove the ham hock and strip the meat off into small bit-sized pieces. Set aside.

5. Drain the peas and set aside.

6. Sauté the onion, along with the pepper and celery if you are choosing to use them.

7. In a large pot, put the rice, peas and sautéed vegetables, along with salt and pepper, and the Cajun or Creole seasoning. Add about 3 cups of water and cook until the rice is done – about 15-20 mins.

8. When it is cooked, remove from the pot and serve into bowls, mixing in the pieces of ham hock, and adding a splash of Tabasco on top.

9. Enjoy the feeling of warmth, and have a very lucky 2013!

Want MORE New Year’s Eve Traditions? Take a look at:

New Year's Eve Traditions from around the wrold