Below the Mason-Dixon Line, black-eyed peas are a staple dish, traditionally eaten in honor of the secular New Year. In the American South, the practice of eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day stems from the belief that they are a symbol of good luck and an omen of a prosperous new year, the peas symbolizing pennies or coins. Read more about this tradition and get my awesome recipe for Black-Eyed-Pea Hummus here. Hoppin' John is one of the most popular ways of preparing Black-Eyed-Peas. The dish is typically made of black-eyed-peas prepared with onion, garlic, celery,pepper, and ham or bacon and served over rice. Of course, as with many kosher southern recipes, the ham-hock is replaced here by smoked-turkey-leg, which helps lend its cured smokiness to help create a distinct Southern flavor.
According to the tradition of Sephardic Jews, the Aramaic term Rubia refers to black-eyed peas, a legume thought to have its origins in West and North Africa. As the word rubia sounds a lot like the Hebrew word Yirbu/Ribuyi, meaning "to increase", it has become the custom among Sephardic Jews to treat these black-dotted peas as a "word-play" siman (symbolic Rosh Hashana food) to signify that "our merits should increase" in our judgement for the coming year.
Cover the peas with water and soak for a minimum of 5 hours. Drain and rinse before cooking. Cut the meat off the smoked turkey leg and chop into small pieces. Set aside. Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the turkey bone and sear on all sides for 2 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, and cook for 5-8 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaves and turkey bone. Add the smoked turkey meat and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with more salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Serve over prepared rice.