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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hoppin' St. Johnsbury - Warm Salad of Black-Eyed Peas

Happy New Year!
Here is a New Vermont twist on the Southern tradition of Black-Eyed Peas on News Years Day.   Just-tender peas are finished as a warm salad with bacon, onion, maple syrup and piquant spices.

Each year, I prepare black-eyed peas on New Year's Day,  in keeping with Mr. Know Whey's family traditions.  However, the standard Southern recipes for Black-eyed peas leave me cold; they seem to favor extreme overcooking, often combined with other overcooked vegetables.   The dish Hoppin' John supposedly arose from the practice of hopping around the table (excitedly) before eating.  According to Wikipedia, "...The traditional meal also features collard, turnip, or mustard greens, and ham. The peas, since they swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represents positive motion."

Yes, pigs root forward when foraging, ..... but suggesting that this represents positive motion seems like a stretch.  I suppose I'm just too much of a Yankee to really get into the right frame of mind.

This legume is actually delicate and toothsome when correctly cooked.  It can retain its shape, and has a scent rather like fresh green beans.  The cowpea has a particularly thin skin, which means it requires less soaking and cooking than other beans; generally is is a finer (less coarse) kind of bean.  Originally from northern Africa, it's also used in ethnic cuisines in India, Asia, and Europe. 

And so this evening, I made something truly delicious and Vermont from the lowly cowpea, and I'm never going back.  Try it and you will be a black-eyed pea convert.  Prosperity in the New Year!  --Sue

Warm Salad of Black-Eyed Peas, Bacon and Maple


1 1/2 lbs. black-eyed peas (dry)

1 large Spanish onion
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
6 ounces thick-cut Vermont bacon, or other thick, smoky bacon
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons Vermont maple syrup, Grade B
3 and 1/2 teaspoons dried mustard (like Colman's)
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
4 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar


  1. Place black-eyed peas in a non-reactive stockpot, cover with water.  Allow to soak for 3 hours.

  2. Bring to low simmer and hold at very low simmer for about 3 hours, or until tender but not falling apart.  Add water as needed during the cooking to keep peas just covered.  The water should NOT be vigorously boiling, just barely simmering.  Stir peas gently, occasionally to ensure even cooking.

  3. At the end of cooking, place peas in colander and rinse under hot water.  Cover and set aside while making the bacon mixture.

  4. Slice bacon into 1/2" pieces, and place in a large saute pan.  Cook over medium heat until 3/4 cooked, then drain off fat.  Drain bacon on paper towels, and wipe out the pan.  Then add bacon back to the pan with olive oil and onion.  Continue cooking until onion is tender.  Add celery for the last five minutes of cooking.

  5. Finishing:  Add the Maple Syrup, dry mustard, brown sugar, and vinegar to the pan and cook over high heat briefly to combine all flavors and coat the vegetables.  Add a few grinds of salt and black pepper.  Then add the black-eyed peas and toss with the vegetables to combine thoroughly. 

  6. Serve with fresh bread and a fun white wine, like this Vermont Riesling.  Put on your party hat and get ready for 2011!

    Happy New Year from Heidi


  1. Oh MY word! This sounds like Heaven on a Bun!
    I was unable to find black-eyed peas here in France this year so I had to go without, sadly. It was always a tradition in my family to eat these on New Year's Day. My Mother, who was from Alabama, would cook them (after soaking) with the ham bone from Christmas dinner, onion and garlic and pepper and finally add chopped green onions when serving. Or, sometimes with the afore-mentioned mustard or collard greens. I usually make a variation of Texas Caviar to eat with tortilla chips throughout the day.
    But YOUR version sounds sublime! I'm bookmarking this now, and when I next locate black-eyed peas, this dish will be cooked tout suite!
    Kind regards, Kitty

  2. Thanks Kitty! That's great! My husband, who is from Arkansas, devoured this dish and declared it best ever. You might find black-eyed peas at an Indian or Portuguese market, in France. Regards, Sue

  3. This looks superb & tasty. Never tried black eyed peas.

  4. mmm, sounds good! but what exactly is spanish onion? never heard of it...

  5. Thanks Jennifurla and Svet! For Svet, a Spanish onion is just a large yellow onion. --Sue


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