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SSS Week Four: Hoppin' John Soup


sundayslowsoupersEver since I was a kid, I've eaten collard greens and black-eyed peas on New Year's Day. It's a Southern tradition that's supposed to bring prosperity and good luck in the new year ahead. Here's an explanation from Mildred Council, author of "Mama Dip's Kitchen" which is also the name of her restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC.

"Black-eyed peas are an important part of the traditional New Year's meal, served alongside hog jowl and collard greens. I've always heard the explanation of the meal, passed down from generation to generation through the grapevine, given this way: the black-eyed peas symbolize change or silver coins, the collard greens are greenbacks or paper money, and the hog jowl wards off bad luck. This meal is served at Mama Dip's Kitchen every New Year. I have never had the nerve to ask anyone, 'Do you believe, or is it just good eating?'"

My family's explanation of the tradition was pretty much the same, but my grandfather replaced the hog jowl with fatback (seasoning pork). The peas and collards were cooked in separate pots but both had a big old piece of pork fat in them and were cooked for a very long time. I continue to cook and eat them every New Year's Day not just for tradition and/or superstition but mainly because I really like greens and peas.

This soup recipe (selected by Shannon) streamlines the whole shebang by turning it into a one-pot dish. It's so delicious, although I had to tinker with it some since I'm a bit of a freak, a Southerner who has stopped eating pork. The original recipe and my modifications are printed below. I liked it so much that I'm going to make it again on New Year's Day.

I stepped out of the kitchen for two seconds to get my camera and when I got back, I found Maria the kitten eating the soup. I guess she will have good luck in 2009 too!


A list of the other Slow Soupers is here.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope this soup brings everyone good luck and abundance in 2009.

Hoppin' John Soup

1 onion, chopped in fairly small pieces
1 cup celery, chopped in fairly small pieces
1 T olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
2-3 cups diced ham (cut off the ham rind and save)
8 cups homemade chicken stock
(or use water with chicken soup base or canned chicken broth)
2 16 oz. packages frozen black-eyed peas
(or use 6 cups freshly cooked black-eyed peas)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bunch fresh collard greens, chopped (about 2 cups when measured after chopping, but next time I would use more)
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar, or more to taste
Optional: ham flavor base if needed, see note at end of the recipe

In large frying pan, saute onion and celery in olive oil about 5 minutes, until starting to soften. Add garlic and saute 2 minutes more, then add ham and saute over very low heat 10 minutes. (Don't skip this step, which concentrates the ham flavor into the vegetables.) Transfer mixture to large soup pot, add chicken stock, black eyed peas, and ham rinds if available, and cook at very low simmer for one hour.

After soup has cooked one hour, taste for flavoring. Add more water and ham flavor base if needed. (It will depend on your ham, but I usually add a tiny bit. I added about 2 cups more water to the soup at this point.) Add chopped collard greens, stir into soup and simmer one hour more, or until black-eyed peas are quite soft. When black-eyed peas are as soft as you want them, remove pieces of ham rind, then use an immersion blender, food processor, or hand masher to partially process about half the soup. You want a mixture of broken and unbroken black-eyes peas, with some thickening of the soup from the pureeing process. Be careful not to over process. Add red pepper flakes and vinegar and simmer 10 minutes more. Serve hot.

(Makes 6-8 servings, recipe created by Kalyn Denny with inspiration from The Gourmet Cookbook.)

My modifications:

I started with dried black-eyed peas, soaked them overnight, and then cooked them with a couple of garlic cloves and five bay leaves (a trick I learned from a friend who is a chef). The bay gives the peas a nice flavor without using any pork.

I replaced the ham and ham rind with two slices of turkey bacon and one Amy's chicken andouille sausage. I also added some smoked paprika (this was Marta's idea). All of this gave the soup a nice slow-cooked smoky flavor.

I didn't cook the soup for two hours! Since I wasn't trying to extract flavor from a ham bone, I only cooked it for about 45 minutes tops (not counting the time to cook the black-eyed peas).

I found some baby collard greens at the farmer's market, and they were very tender. If I'd been using regular collards, I might have needed to cook the soup a bit longer.

I also added a diced carrot, tripled the garlic, and added LOTS of red pepper flakes!

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Comments (19)

Kitty knows a good thing when she sees it. ;)

That is too cute!

I had to add tobasco... apparently I like mine zippier than Maria does.

Colleen, you are so right about that...she's a smart kitten. She knows that I find all her mischief so endearing!

Sandi, Tabasco is a great idea. I need to buy some for the next batch. Mine had a little bit of heat from the red pepper flakes but I'd like it zippier too.


Annie, I've always wanted to try black-eyed peas (they sound so intriguing) And your addition of turkey bacon and chicken to this recipe sounds wonderful (no wonder Maria was so intrigued!)

BTW, did you happen to see the article on Venice in the December issue of Conde Nast Traveller? There are some wonderful photos and the piece is very well written (nothing too hokey, such as comparing Venice to a beautiful woman blah blah blah!)

Annie, I am chuckling over this post! Maria seems to have her priorities straight :) Happy Belated Birthday!! I don't think I have ever had collard greens.

Cute photo of your taste tester. :) I'm not a big fan of black-eyed peas but this soup look so appetizing that I might give it a try. I've been lurking on the SSS threads and did make two of the soups.

Sandra, I love black-eyed peas but not everyone does. And yes, I blogged about that article right after I got home from Venice - I really enjoyed it. The author wrote the book "A History of Venice" and it was interesting to see his recommendations for art, churches etc. And the photos were great!

Girasoli, thanks! Maria is such a mess. And I love collards but again, some people don't. They are stronger in flavor than spinach but not as strong as turnip greens.

Maria, I think you could sub another bean you like better and it would still be great. Which soups have you made? I've missed a few but have really liked all the ones I made so far.

I made the turkey soup from Jerry's recipe but made it with shrimp following Marta's recipe and recommendations. It was so good that we didn't have any left overs. The other soup was the Italian Wedding Soup which I just made this past Saturday for three of my best friends. They loved it and asked for the recipe. It was very yummy and the meatballs were very tasty.

I'll probably be making some of the other recipes as time permits. They all sound so good and I'm looking forward to making yours come April.

I want to try Jerry's soup with shrimp too. I love soup recipes because they are so versatile and fun to play around with. Not like baking where you have to measure carefully. :)

I bet your friends loved that Wedding Soup - it was really good!


Annie, I've just caught up with the belated birthday wishes! I'm sorry to be so late to the party, but Happy, Happy Birthday! What was the actual date?

You must be a Capricorn? An earth sign -- funny, I would have expected water! My birthday was December 15, making me a Sagittarian -- but I always felt as if I were more of a grounded Capricorn than a fiery Sag (altho I do like to play with fire......)

I think babbling is another Sag trait, so I'll stop now with a final wish that you have had a happy birthday and will have a wonderful year ahead!


Yum, that sounds so good!

On a completely unrelated topic...uh oh, your eternal soul is in trouble, Annie, unless you watch Mamma Mia! (Valerie left on my blog, which is addressed to all my blog friends - she says not having seen the movie is a sin...and she is a Reverend and all, so she should know these things lol)

Sandra, thank you! Another December birthday girl...happy birthday to you too! Dec. 27 was my actual day. And it's funny, because I often feel more like a Sag than a Capricorn.

Anne, that's hilarious. I just left a message for Rev. Val on your blog (since she is my virtual Pastor, I will take her orders seriously!).

Have a wonderful year full of joy, love, and health! Hope 2009 brings you a return trip to Venice.


Hi Annie, just wanted to wish you a Happy New Year! Maybe 2009 will be the year that we blog fans will convince you to publish that gorgeous coffee table book on Venetian churches! (really it's all here, you just need to send it to the publisher - and sign me up for a copy!)

Hi Annie, I wanted to wish you a fabulous New Year!!

Just think, Obama will be our new President in 20 more days!! I will be sad when he leaves Hawaii. Even though I have not seen him (drats, I knew I should have gone to the zoo yesterday), it is fun seeing what he has been up to every day on the news here.

Thanks for all the New Years wishes - sending them back your way!

Maria, thank you! It was so much fun this year to read about everyone's travels; it will be interesting to see what 2009 brings!

Anne, you are so kind. A book seems so overwhelming but who knows? I've still got a bunch of churches to blog about!

Girasoli, I am counting down the days. On Jan. 20, we will get to re-experience all the joy we felt on Nov. 5, how fun! I don't know if I could have survived the stress leading up to that election without our blogging community. I hope that Obama puts the Western White House in Hawaii!


Happy New Year to you and your "lucky" kitty.
What a great shot!


Jan, thank you! She IS a lucky kitten (and I'm lucky to have her and her big sister). Happy New Year!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, I'm so glad you mentioned this on my blog. Maria is so precious! I'm sure she convinced herself that you made that delicious soup and put out that serving just for her. She is soo cute! I love it! I would have a difficult time being upset with her too! And yes, now that I have some time I'm going to work on my little Christmas Wish . . .

And Happy Belated Birthday Annie! I'm sorry I missed it. I wish you the most wonderful of New Year and hope that all your Birthday wishes come true for you! And I have to agree with Anne's comment. You have so much information, great writing talent and such wonderful insights. I still remember your article about your favorite lessor known churches. Reading it before my trip made it possible for me to discover these very beautiful churches. Wonderful post Annie!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 28, 2008 11:19 AM.

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