The South Carolina Low Country has a lot to offer vacationers. This is not to be debated – as great weather, beautiful, natural scenery, and some of the friendliest folks in the world await millions of travelers each year. One of the biggest reason’s folks keep coming back is of course, the great food! Country cookin’ and fresh seafood go together with a vacation like red beans and rice! Like Catfish and Hushpuppies! Like Peanut Butter and Bananas (thank you, Mr. Presley!). The Low Country of South Carolina simply has food that will make you happy!
We all have learned of the staples of our region’s culinary offerings: Fried Food, Calabash Cooking, Seafood Boils, and Rice Dishes all take center stage when foodies think of our area. There is one dish, however that is sometimes overlooked. This is because it is normally served around New Year’s, but is especially hearty and good for colder months. It’s a dish with a great name, rich history, and is simple to make. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you “Hoppin’ John”.
Hoppin’ John is almost a spiritual dish in that low country tradition demands its presence on New Year’s Eve/Day. Starting out as a quickly prepared placation for children and surprise visitors, Hoppin’ John represents what we want out of fortune and karma throughout the new year. The Black-eyed peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. In some houses, actual coins are placed under the plates and long, long ago they were even added to the batch (watch your teeth!). All the ingredients can be found in the low country, particularly the Sea Islands. This easy dish finds its origins with the slaves of the West Indies, who would make do with what they had. So many great dishes in all of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia find their roots in the Sea Islands. Hoppin’ John can be prepared quickly, is very filling, and will warm you up, for sure!
To prepare, get the ingredients that are listed below. You might even have everything ready to go! Cook your bacon and crisp it up. Drain it on some paper towels and keep that grease in the pan. Sauté the green pepper, celery, and onions until they soften up. Add your rice, water, and spices (I would go 1/2 a teaspoon on the Cayenne Pepper; you don’t want your nose to run!). Cover and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the Black-eyed Peas and bacon and simmer 10 more minutes. Throw that bay leaf away and serve! Hoppin’ John!
The name Hoppin’ John has a couple of origins. One is of an old feller named John who hobbled around Charleston selling peas and rice. Another is from the dance kids would do around the table in anticipation of this delicious dish. Hoppin’ John can be prepared any way you like and different ingredients can be added, depending on where you are and what you’ve got! I come from the Piedmont of North Carolina and it is a tradition in my family to have turnip greens, black eyed peas, cornbread, and rice for new year’s. This shows how Hoppin’ John made its way up through the region and was modified and adapted.
Try your hand at traditional Hoppin’ John or come up with your own. When you visit North Myrtle Beach and stay at Seaside Resort, you’ll have lots of great opportunities to try some traditional southern food at great places like Mama Jean’s or Hoskin’s or even the Calabash buffets. Let’s eat!
Hoppin’ John Ingredients:
1/2 pound sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small green or sweet red pepper, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
6 green onions, sliced
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 can (15 ounces) black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
Jason Coker is originally from the metropolis of Burlington, NC and is passionate about vacation experiences. An aficionado of music, sports, and all things geeky, Jason spends his free time performing music in several brass groups in the Myrtle Beach area, grilling out, and relaxing with his son, daughter, and lovely wife, Amy.