Plant Answers  >  Black-Eyed Peas for New Year's

Black-Eyed Peas for New Year's

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:

TEXAS CAVIAR

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.

HOPPIN' JOHN

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!

 


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