This dish is traditional to the south, but this northern girl absolutely loves it! Hopping John…AKA Black Eyed Peas. No, not the music, although I do enjoy them too! There are some variations on it, and of course it can be changed to match your taste, but this is a pretty traditional version of it I think. Of course, being a northern girl, don’t take my word for it.
To start, soak a sixteen ounce bag of dried (they are so worth the effort) peas in enough cold water to cover overnight. In the morning, drain, rinse and check for debris (yes debris, sometimes there are rocks mixed in). Into a stock pot (four quart or so) go the peas and one sixteen ounce box of unsalted vegetable broth.
For this batch I opted to use a half-pound of thick slab peppered bacon that I had in the freezer. However, you can use ham hocks, pork butt, or regular bacon. If you want, you can leave out the pork all together and make this vegan very easily. I cut the bacon into two-inch slices or so and into a skillet they go to brown and render the fat. Once the bacon is browned nicely, transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Once drained well, add it to the stock pot with the peas.
While the bacon was browning, two onions, four chili peppers (I leave the seeds and ribs, but get rid of them for a milder taste), and five cloves of garlic got rough chopped. All but a tablespoon or so of the bacon fat gets drained from the skillet and the chopped vegetables join it. If you decided to go the vegan route, just use some olive oil or vegetable oil to saute the vegetables. Saute until the vegetables just start to soften, then transfer them into the stock pot as well.
I season very simply with salt and pepper (more pepper because I love it) and a few dashes of tabasco. In my eyes, that is all this dish needs, but season to your own family’s taste. I think some smoked paprika would be a nice addition here, or maybe some cumin. I serve them up with some dirty rice and collard greens, but they stand well on their own or as a side dish as well. This dish truly is comfort food for the soul…you can’t eat it and not feel good!