Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Celebrating with Hopping John

Note: This is a milestone for Foodie Pantry.It's our 2,500 blog entry. I can't believe it . It has really changed my life and I have an old friend, Pete Burley and his business partner, Mitch Rappel to thank for this. I was coming up with different ways to promote their new sports drink, Fyxx Caffeinated water and they had suggested a blog. Look back and you will see the first article is about Fyxx. I though that would be it- just one blog entry -  but I got hooked - and hooked and hooked. So onto the 2500th -----

New Year's is a time of tradition and celebration. Food and its' symbolism figures into it  big time. One of the most traditional is hopping John.It is a dish from the Deep South , made with the ingredients of the region.It promises both luck and deliciousness with just one bean.

Kim Severson wrote about this holiday must have in today's New York Times Food section.It is made from the simple cow pea or as we all know it the black eyed pea.It was the great botanist, George Washington Carver who studied them and improved them to create a  stronger , hardier legume.Unfortunately what is sold in the stores is not that.It's a similar looking buff bean  grown in California , and as Ms, Severson puts it "is to the cowpea as iceberg is to lettuce".Get the real kind for your New Year's celebrations, the ones with a history as old as this country's The black eyed pea which is really a bean, originated in west Africa, brought over by enslaved Africans. Luckily the plants are hardy and can take to any soil that they're planted in. They sustained both livestock and people who were too poor to afford other foods.Another plus is that they were kind of like manure in the sense that they put nitrogen into fields, enabling other crops to grow.They also can exist without a lot of water, making ideal in the sometimes drought riddled South. Seeds have been passed down through generations of families, with that comes colorful names like turkey craw, red ripper,washday old timer and whipperwill.

All these varieties surprisingly have different flavors. Crowder peas, so named because they crowd in the pod, are big and meaty so they mix well with rice. if you want a creamy mash  then go with the bright and delicate  cream variety.One rare one with a history, is the Sea Island red pea, first cultivated in the 1600's . It was first cooked into a ruddy gravy in the Carolina rice fields,It  is  also now being revived  as well to go into modern skillets and pots..These peas have different flavors. The pink eye purple hull ones taste like artichokes, and these will probably be the next foodie craze in the New York area. The beans are already hitting our northern markets. What can be made with black eyed peas?||?Ms. Severson give the recipe of purple hull peas with mustard greens in smoky potlikker. This last is  a variation of the phrase pot liquor, the liquid leftover from cooking and is used kind of like a cross between a saute and a gravy.Smoked turkey legs and wings or smoked ham hocks add more flavor along with mustard greens. This is also highly spiced dish, with the addition of chopped garlic and a red hot chili pepper. Bay leaves , allspice and thyme give it an earthy herbal tang  while a tablespoons of sugar tempers the whole recipe.. Ms. Severson serves it with a homemade cornbread, truly Southern with the addition of buttermilk and bacon grease. My recipe is a little simpler. Cook them  in salted water and add butter and  more salt. The beans' starch mixed with the first creating a creamy sauce, perfect with slices of fresh , hot ham or fried chicken,

Have a plate of hopping John to bring you good luck in the New Year. You can try the spicy version or my delicate one. Either way, eat them to enable a money filled 2016

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