Suppose you don't like black-eyed peas? As my old mama
says about cooking possums, those who don't like black-eyed peas don't
know how to cook black-eyed peas!
Granted, if you throw some black-eyed peas in a pot and
boil them unmercifully for several hours, the resulting blackened capsules
will be painfully terrible to eat. On the other hand, if you intermingle
four thick slices of salt pork (or bacon for you city folks) and simmer
those beauties for several hours, you will create a culinary delicacy.
The great thing about cooking black-eyed peas is that they get better
the longer you keep them. That's right -- the more times you reheat
peas, the more flavorful they will become.
Some folks don't like black-eyed peas. It takes all sorts
to make a world and I have never been one to criticize the mentally
impaired so I won't comment on those who don't like them. These people
are probably the same unfortunate types who don't appreciate barbecued
possum and squirrel stew. But now everyone will be intimidated into
eating those little tan legumes with the black "pupils" because
recent studies indicate that they are a good source of water-soluble
fiber. This is the same fiber that's in oat bran. NOW your colon health
is at stake and those peas are sounding better and better, aren't they?
This revelation that black-eyed peas are good colon masseuses
will encourage a lot of pea-cooking novices to try a batch. SO, DON'T
MESS THEM UP WHEN YOU'RE COOKING THEM! If you think the flag burning
issue caused a national ruckus, wait until a bunch of folks start ruining
tons of wonderful peas. It doesn't take a brain-surgeon mentality to
cook a good mess of peas. I have given you the basic formula: a pot
full of peas and some salt pork simmered until the peas are tender.
Too much salt pork equals salty peas. If the peas are too salty, just
pour the juice off, remove some of the pork and re-simmer. If you want
a Thomas Jefferson recipe: "After soaking overnight, the black-eyed
peas are simmered an hour or so, then accented with chopped and sautéed
onion, green pepper, celery and some cooked tomatoes. The meats (cooked
country ham and leftover duck, wild or domestic) including some pork
sausage, are mixed with the vegetables, and the casserole bubbles in
the oven under a layer of buttered baking powder biscuit crumb."
I'll guarantee old Tom never had even a colon quiver eating down-home
food like that!
You will notice that Jefferson's recipe mentioned country
ham. Some of you don't even understand what country ham is, while those
who have experienced this heavenly taste experience and was birthed
with ham cooking on the stove are drooling profusely. For the droolers,
I have an address where you can order some down-home good Tennessee
country ham. I found this place when I went home to see my old mama
one Christmas. Give my old mama a couple of pieces of good country ham,
let her cook some eggs in those skillet drippings and co-mingle them
with homemade biscuits swimming in butter and wading in honey, and you've
got an eating situation that will fill your belly wall-to-wall. Salt-cured,
hickory smoked ham is the diamond delight of eating and can be compared
to no other ham. They don't "make this kind" of ham in Texas,
i.e., this is the original, American country ham-they didn't have honey-cured
hams in those days. Anyway, the people who know what I'm talking about
know what I mean; the people who don't know or have never experienced
country ham can't be saved. (NOTE: For those (whimps) whose taste buds
might think that this salt-cured ham is too salty, you can make this
meat-from-heaven as bland as you want by soaking the salt out in water
for several hours. Don't overcook this ham either -- there are legal
ramifications for such an unholy act! Simmer the meat on low heat.)
My food "find" is Tripp Country Hams, 207 South Washington Street, Brownsville, Tennessee 38012-3090 (Telephone: 1-800-471-9814 or 731-772-2130).
Visit their website at http://www.countryhams.com for more country ham information.
Back to black?eyed peas! Here are some black-eyed pea
recipes for you to try:
3 cups cooked black-eyed peas
One large green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch thin julienne strips
2 to 3 bunches green onions, chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup mixed equal parts olive oil and safflower oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
Dark-green lettuce leaves
2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped (optional)
In a serving bowl, combine all the ingredients except
the lettuce leaves and chopped eggs; toss well. Cover the salad and
allow to marinate in the refrigerator for several hours.
Arrange each serving atop a bed of lettuce leaves, garnished
with chopped egg, if desired. Serves 6.
1 can (15 oz.) black-eyed peas
4 slices thick bacon, diced
1 large onion, chopped (1 and ½ cups)
1 cup white rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
Hot red pepper sauce (optional)
Drain peas, reserving liquid. Add water to the liquid
to make 2-1/2 cups. Set liquid and peas aside. Cook bacon in medium
saucepan until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon to paper towels.
Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings from the
pan. Sautee onion in drippings until tender. Add the rice, cooking and
stirring 2 minutes longer.
Add reserved liquid, salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer
20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in peas, bacon and, if desired, hot
red pepper sauce.
Let stand covered until all liquid is absorbed, about
5 minutes. Makes 6 servings.
BLACK-EYED PEA SOUP
1-1/2 cups dry black?eyed peas
2 pound ham hocks or ham bone
8 cups water
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1-inch piece of bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon bacon or ham drippings
Slices of lemon and hard-?cooked egg
Combine black-eyed peas, ham hocks or bone and water in large kettle.
Add chopped celery, chopped onion and bay leaf. Crush thyme and add
to soup. Simmer until peas are done, about 1 hour.
Remove ham hocks and by leaf; press soup through sieve
or puree in food mill or a blender. Return to kettle.
Blend flour and drippings and cook in small pan until
browned. Slowly stir this roux into the soup and simmer until soup is
thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut meat from the bone
into 1/2 inch cubes and add to soup. Serve hot with slices of lemon
and hard-cooked egg. Serves 8.
So, if you don't have good luck this year, it's not because
I didn't do my part. I have given you the pea recipes and the source
of country ham. Black-eyed peas should be planted in April and perform
best in sandy land. For now, you will have to buy the canned or dried
types. Good country (that's Tennessee country!) ham will make any form
of black-eyed peas worth some hunger-busting good eating. To give you
an idea of how good these vittles are, there is not a certified anorexic
within 30 miles of my old mama's back door and visiting bulimics gain
weigh at her table.
Good luck in the New Year!