This old southern favorite doesn’t have to be eaten on New Year’s Day.

Hop on down to the recipe!

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that this dish is the traditional southern dish “Hoppin’ John” with some whiskey thrown in. You know, to keep us honest. A lot of people eat this around New Year’s Day because of the whole black-eyed-pea thing, but it’s excellent in the spring and summer too, especially when fresh peas are in season. (Hint: any fresh pea that’s not a snap pea will work with this dish.) It’s also really healthy and filling. Healthy southern food? Yep, the south does have a few health-conscious tricks up its sleeve.

My original plan here was to combine two southern favorites: Hoppin’ John and braised collards. The plan was that by using fresh peas and brown rice, the whole thing would boil for about 30-40 minutes, which is also the time it takes to cook collards. But alas, there was a miscommunication with my partner in crime and they came with garden fresh kale. (The collards needed about another week or so of grow time.) So if you make this with collards please keep in mind that this should work in theory so don’t get mad at me if your collards aren’t wilty enough.

venison sausage recipes

I have, however, combined this dish with another southern favorite: bourbon. Or whiskey. I think I used rye whiskey. We were cooking up the sausages and the pan got to that point where it gets a dark little coating on it when it’s just begging to be deglazed. Then of course I can’t deglaze with something that isn’t interesting. Water or broth? Pschaaa, never! It turned out really nice. You could really smell the vanilla and caramel notes of the whiskey in the cooking process.

If you have access to fresh peas, do use them! I found some probably-too-expensive frozen ones at Central Market and they worked beautifully. If you use canned black eyed peas, I would add them at least half way through the cooking time (in about the last 10 minutes is probably best) so they don’t get too mushy. You certainly don’t need to remove part of the sausage and reserve it to sprinkle on top, but I wanted the crispy meat pieces in there, but also wanted the spices in the sausage to flavor the whole dish. As far as what kind of sausage, you can really use anything that strikes your fancy. (I used smoked hot sausage, but Italian or breakfast sausage would suffice.)

Hoppin’ Johnny Walker

Ingredients

  • 8-12oz venison sausage (diced)
  • 1/2 cup whiskey
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 stalks celery (sliced)
  • 1 red bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1.5lb fresh black eyed peas (about 2 cups, or 3 cans rinsed)
  • 3 cups water or broth
  • 3 cups collards, kale, or chard (washed, any thick stems removed and chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Step 1
Heat a dutch oven or deep skillet over medium heat. Add the diced sausage and cook until the fat renders out and the pieces start to get crispy. Remove about half of the sausage pieces and reserve for garnishing. Deglaze the pan with the whisky, scraping up and stuck-on parts on the bottom of your pan. Add the onions and a little salt and cook until they start to turn translucent (about 3 minutes). Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about another minute or two. Add the celery, bell pepper, black eyed peas, rice, and paprika and stir until everything has cooked a little and is coated with the cooking fat, about 3 more minutes. Add the water and collards (if using collards - kale and chard will go in at the end). Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to simmer until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 40 minutes.
Step 2
If using kale or chard, add once the rice is finished but with the pan still on the heat and stir around until the greens wilt. Serve with the reserved pieces of meat to sprinkle on top.
Non game substitution: You can use any smoked sausage or the more traditional, cut up bacon.
Vegetarian substitution: Leave out the meat, just make sure you use a little oil since fat doesn’t render out of no meat. You could also do vegetarian sausage if you feel so inclined, but don’t put it in there just to put it in there unless it’s actually good vegetarian sausage.

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