Southerners believe that if you eat 365 black-eyed peas on January 1, you will be lucky and prosperous everyday in the New Year! Plus, if you serve your peas with a side of "golden" cornbread...your wealth could improve even more! Bring on the Hoppin' John and the Corn Bread!
There are many superstitious traditions surrounding the black-eyed pea, but most seem to have originated during the Civil War. When General Sherman's troops stormed the South, they destroyed or stole most of the livestock and crops in their wake leaving very little for the surviving confederates and slaves to live on. However, since the lowly black-eyed peas were considered feed for livestock and thus "below" human consumption, they were ignored. Rich in nutrients, this humble pea quickly became an important food source for struggling Southerners...very lucky!
Lucky too that Southerners can make delicious meals from slim pickings by adding a touch of "soul" to every recipe that will turn crops from the field into cash in your bowl.
Southerners say that while swollen black-eyed peas resemble coins, greens such as collards and turnips represent paper money and a side of corn bread adds a little gold to the meal. Some Southern cooks go as far as to drop a few coins into the pot of beans before serving so that the guest that gets the coins will have extra-extra luck in the new year. Hey...whatever works, right?!
1 pound fresh or frozen black-eyed peas
6 cups water
1 cup onion; chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt
1 small smoked ham hock
1 Tablespoon Better Than Bouillon brand Chicken Base
4-6 cups cooked white rice
Chow-Chow tomato relish (or red pepper relish); optional
Chopped sweet yellow onion and chopped fresh tomato; optional
In a large pot or Dutch oven, cover the beans with 6 Cups of fresh water.
Add the onions, pepper, and bay leaf bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Add ham hock, salt and bouillon; and simmer, uncovered, another 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the beans are tender.
Discard the ham hock and bay leaf.
Serve atop white rice and with hot, buttered Corn Bread.
Pass around chow-chow relish or chopped fresh onion and tomato.
Note: If you want to make the black-eyed peas in your electric pressure cooker, add the first 8 ingredients into the pot together, bring to 15 psi and cook for 30 minutes before allowing the pressure to release naturally.