Landon’s Black Eyed Peas – A Tutorial
A staple in the Southern diet for over 300 years, black-eyed peas have long been associated with good luck. A dish of peas is a New Year's tradition in most areas of the South, thought to bring luck and prosperity for the new year.Another great thing about the black eye is that they are EXTREMELY drought tolerant, so they grow well here in West Texas.
My family hoards black eyes. I actually bought a new deep freezer just to store my peas and the ham hocks that I use to flavor them. There's some other stuff in my deep freeze, but it's mainly there to keep my pea stash safe.
PURCHASING YOUR PEAS:
It's actually not all that easy to get your hands on them. It's important to know this before you start your pea career. My family isn't the only group of greedy pea hoarders. People all over the Lubbock area stake their claim to peas the moment they are harvested.
We always get ours from the Thiel family at Sunburst Farms at 88th & MLK. The Thiels are great people with a really cool farm. They have just about everything you could imagine at their farmers market, including peas when they're in season.
PREPARING YOUR PEAS:
This is the second hardest part...right behind actually finding the things!
You purchase peas by the 'bushel' which is 60lbs. But remember, that's 60lbs of UNSHELLED peas. It may sound like a lot, but once you shell them you'll only wind up with about 8 to 10 quarts of peas. One quart of cooked peas equals about enough for 4 normal people...or 2 Landons.
Before you get to work on removing the peas from their pods, you'll need to lay out some newspaper for the sorting of shells, peas and 'snaps'...more on those in a second.
To shell them, just hold the pea with the 'crease' facing downward, try to pull off the stem with out completely removing it from the husk, pull the stem sort of like a zipper down the crease and then work of the shell as gently as possible. Anyone who has ever shelled a pea knows that there is most definitely an art to it. Once you've done a few, you'll get the general idea.
It's also important to know that you sometimes wind up with a little, tiny pod that is hard to shell. DO NOT THROW IT AWAY! Those are your 'snaps' and they're an integral part of your peas. Have a seperate pile for the 'snaps' and just break them into little 2-inch pieces. You'll add them to your quart of peas later.
Now it's time to 'blanch' your shelled peas and snaps! (You blanch the peas to clean and disinfect them before storage.)
First, fill your sink with COLD water. We actually add cups of ice to the already cool tap water just to make sure it's cold enough.
Now, grab the largest pot you have, fill it with water and bring it to a boil.
Once the water is boiling, add as many peas and snaps as you can fit into the pot. Once the water begins to boil again, strain the peas and toss them in the cold water. Once they are cool again, lay them out on a flat surface on a large towel and allow them to air dry.
Now just measure out a quart of peas, place them in Ziplock storage bags and put them in the freezer ASAP!
COOKING YOUR PEAS:
Black eyed peas are incredibly easy to cook and there are many, many recipes out there if you want to try something more sophisticated than what we do.
Here's my step-by-step recipe:
--Bring a large pot of water to a boil
--Add two and a half tablespoons of salt, one tablespoon of pepper and a teaspoon of olive oil
--season with two or three (or four or five) bacon pieces, ham hock or pork pieces (the pork is a must for flavor)
--add quart of peas
--boil until tender. Usually about 30 minutes.
--Serve as a side or as the main dish!
Here's an example of how I serve mine:
That's fresh, cold cantaloupe, grilled chicken quarter and peas. My favorite meal!
Now, give me your family's black eyed pea recipes!