Across the South, eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a way to usher in luck and fortune to the new year. There’s more than one legendary tale to how this tradition got started, but for Southerners’ sakes, we’ll tell the one about the Civil War.
When General William Tecumseh Sherman was marching across the South with his troops, they were typically stripping everything in their paths– including all stored food, crops, and livestock. Whatever they couldn’t carry, they would destroy. Legend says that during that time period Northerners considered field peas (or field corn) only suitable for animals and did not steal or destroy the food. And thus, black-eyed peas found their place in Southern culture.
Southern Black-Eyed Peas
4 cups fresh or frozen black-eyed peas
4 -5 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a 5 quart Dutch oven, cook bacon until crisp; set aside to drain on paper towels.
Cook onion, celery and garlic in bacon drippings until tender; add broth, salt, pepper and peas. Bring to a boil and skim top if necessary. Lower heat to simmer; crumble bacon and add to peas.
Adjust seasonings to taste, cover and simmer until peas are tender (30 minutes to 1 hour depending on how tender you like them).
Black-Eyed Peas with Bacon AND Pork
1 pound dried black-eyed peas (fresh or canned black-eyed peas can be substituted)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 ounces pork shoulder, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
4 strips thick sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, small diced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
3 bay leaves
Hot-pepper vinegar, as desired
If using dried black-eyed peas, put them in a large pot and cover with about 4 inches of water. Soak the peas overnight, then drain the water and rinse. Alternatively, you can “quick-soak” the peas by bringing them and the water to a boil for 2 minutes. After this, remove them from the heat, cover the pot and soak the peas for 1 hour. Then, drain and rinse the peas.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the pork. Sear until the pork is browned on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the bacon, onion and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, until the onion and garlic are lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the salt, black pepper, cayenne and garlic powder. Cook until the entire mixture is coated with the spices, about 2 minutes. Pour in the stock and water and drop in the bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.
When the pork begins to fall apart, add the prepared peas to the pot and simmer until the peas are very soft, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
(Cooks Note: Using the back of a spoon, smash some of the peas against the inside of the pot then stir them into the mixture. This will break up some of the peas and give them a creamier consistency. Alternatively, you can puree 1 cup of the peas and broth in a blender or a food processor, then return the puree to the pot.)
Taste for seasonings, and add some hot-pepper vinegar, if desired. Discard the bay leaves and transfer the black-eyed peas to a serving bowl.
Set Your Mouth on Fire Black-Eyed Peas
4 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (16-ounce) package dried black-eyed peas, washed
1 (12-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups water
In a large saucepan, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon, crumble, and set aside to use as a topping for the peas.
Saute the onion in the bacon drippings until tender. Add the peas, diced tomatoes and green chiles, salt, chili powder, pepper and water.
Cover and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the peas are tender.
Add additional water, if necessary.
Avocado and Black Eyed Pea Salsa
2 ripe but firm avocados, diced
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup chopped roma (plum) tomatoes
1 (11 ounce) can shoepeg corn, drained
1 (15 ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
salt and black pepper to taste
Lightly mix together avocados, green onion, cilantro, tomatoes, corn, and black-eyed peas in a salad bowl until well combined.
Whisk together red wine vinegar, olive oil, cumin, and minced garlic in a bowl, and pour over the salad. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and lightly toss the salad again.
Chill for 1 hour before serving, to blend flavors.
Lucky New Year’s Black Eyed Pea Stew
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups finely shredded Napa cabbage
1 (8 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 pound ham hocks
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning – salt to taste
1 quart chicken stock
1 (10 ounce) package frozen black-eyed peas
1 1/2 cups basmati rice, well rinsed
3 cups water
Heat the oil in a deep pan or stockpot set over medium-high heat. Stir in the onions and garlic, and cook until transparent, about 5 minutes. Mix in the Napa cabbage; toss and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the ham hocks, cayenne pepper, bay leaf, Cajun seasoning, and salt, stirring for 2 minutes more. Pour in the chicken stock and black-eyed peas. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook uncovered for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, place the rice and water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed and rice is light and fluffy, about 20 minutes.
Before serving, remove the ham hocks from the pot. Coarsely chop the meat, and return to the black-eyed pea mixture. Serve hot over Basmati rice.
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