Hoppin’ John and Skippin’ Jenny

Tradition in the American south has wide influences. In this traditional New Years dish, you can see cultural influences from Europe and Africa.

Hoppin’ John is a dish that combines rice and black-eyed peas. Typically it is flavored with a ham hock or bacon. But if you don’t eat pork, you can make a vegetarian version that is just as flavorful. This year we used spicy turkey sausage and it was great!

Stories go according to how many black-eyed peas you get on your fork, is how much luck you will have in the new year.Three peas should be left on your plate to represent health, wealth, and love or faith, hope, and charity or even luck, romance and money.

The meal is accompanied with food items that represent wealth: greens like collards, turnip greens, swiss chard, cabbage or kale represent “folding money” so be sure to serve plenty of greens on new years.

Carrots are cut into rounds to represent gold coins, corn bread is often served because it is the color of gold as well.

Tradition states to eat like a pauper on New Years day and eat like a king the rest of the year.

In some parts of the south, left-over “Hoppin’ John” is called “Skippin’ Jenny” after New Years day. After that, we just call it beans and rice, served up with a “mess of collards” and cornbread.

Don’t forget the pot liquor.

Hoppin’ John and Skippin’ Jenny

  • 1/2# Spicy Italian turkey sausage
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced thin or minced
  • 1-1/2 cups white rice, raw (I prefer basmati or texmati)
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 – 15 oz. cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh black pepper

Method:

Slice the sausage into 1″ slices. Saute in olive oil for 3 minutes.

Add onion. Sweat the onions (cook without browning) until they become translucent.

Add the garlic, rice and thyme. Stir to coat the rice.

Add the chicken stock, black-eyed peas, oregano, salt, and pepper.

Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and simmer 20 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender.

Slice the sausage

Saute the onions and sausage

Add rice and stir

Add black-eye peas and stock

Bring to boil, lower heat, cover, simmer 20 minutes

Hoppin’ John

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Pepper Jelly, Another Southern Staple

Chances are, if you live in the southern USA, you have seen and tasted pepper jelly. Pepper jelly is one of those staples that can be used in many things.

Hostess Saver

It saves a hostess when guests show up; pour some pepper jelly over cream cheese and some crackers and you have a marvelous snack with wine, beer or even iced tea.

It adds a special something to pan-fried pork chops and makes scrambled eggs amazing. Slathering some onto a biscuit or over some ham will leave you in taste bud heaven.

While pepper jelly is a bit on the pricy side ($4.99 USD for a small 6 oz jar) it can be made rather quickly and you can adjust the heat to make it hot or just make it sweet.

When you make this, set aside time to give it your full attention because it needs to be stirred constantly to prevent lumping and scorching.

As always, when working with hot sugar, be careful. Keep a bowl of ice water near your working space so if you get splashed, you can plunge it into ice water to prevent a bad burn.

There are many recipes for pepper jelly. This one does not use a large amount of pectin so it sets on a medium gel which makes it perfect for pouring over cream cheese, making a sauce or slathering onto a nice hot buttermilk biscuit.

Pepper Jelly Biscuit with herb and cheese scrambled eggs

Southern Pepper Jelly

1 1/4 cup of finely diced red and orange peppers (one large pepper of each color)

3/4 cup finely diced green pepper

2 tablespoons finely diced jalapeno pepper OR 1 small Habanero

Wear gloves when handling hot peppers. If you get the hot peppers on your skin, soak the skin in milk, 1/2 & 1/2 or cream.

Do not rub your eyes or touch small children or babies with hands that have just handled hot peppers.

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1 1.75 ounce package of powdered pectin

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Take your time cutting the peppers. The best jelly has lovely evenly diced cubes of multicolored peppers floating the jelly. If you just hack and chop, you see uneven strands and bits and pieces of peppers which isn’t so nice to look at through the jar or when you are eating the jelly.

Here is how to cut a nice looking pepper:

Wash the peppers and remove any sticky labels.

Trim the top and bottom off, remove the stem and save the trimmed ends for kebab or in a salad or stir-fry.

Remove the ribs and seeds, open the pepper so it lays flat, skin side down.

Carefully remove the membrane

See how much prettier the pepper is with the membrane removed?

Slice into julienne, cut even slices all the way down the pepper strip.

Turn the julienne and cut into dice. The cubes should be of even size.

Pepper Jelly, a southern staple and hostess saver.

Slice the pepper so it becomes one long strip. Lay the pepper out with the skin side down. Remove the seeds and ribs from inside the pepper.

Using a sharp knife, remove the membrane from the inside of the pepper, leaving the plump pepper flesh. Just take a very thin slice from the surface to remove the membrane.

Make long thin slices from the pepper (Julienne cut), then turn the strips and cut them into cubes. Do this carefully so you create a bowl full of nicely diced peppers.

Trust me, it really makes a difference to take the time to do it right.

Place the diced peppers, vinegar and pectin into a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.

Be careful of vinegar fumes, turn your exhaust fan on so you don’t get all choked up.

When the mixture comes to a full rolling boil, add the sugar.

Return the mixture to another rolling boil, then boil it for 1 full minute while stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and skim off any foam that may have formed on the top.

You can process the jelly in canning jars, hot water bath etc to seal and make them shelf stable. (Great idea for gifts)

Or using clean, sterile jars, fill and invert them on the counter to cool. Once cool, turn them over and they seal will set, but you will need to refrigerate the jars.

This makes slightly over a pint.

Soften cream cheese, to fancy it up a bit, put it in a piping bag and pipe the cream cheese out in a decorative pattern rather than just plopping a chunk of cream cheese on a plate.

But if you want to, you can do it that way. Lots of southern folks do.