This is a ridiculous recipe (you know it is the instant you see “First Day . . . Second Day . . . Third Day”). But it’s the very bestest recipe in the entire world for blackeyed peas. It’s from The Nashville Cookbook, published in 1976 by the Nashville Area Home Economics Association (an altogether worthy volume that exemplifies classic Southern cooking — indubitably a must-buy, if you can find it). These are on page 66.
Now, don’t be intimidated by the length of time these take to cook (it’s mostly hands-off). They’re quite easy — and cheap! — and they just require some planning. I’ve made them a couple times for New Year’s Day (since all Southerners know that you must have black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day). I’m making them right now, to have with cornbread in a couple days. And I thought it all smelled way too good not to share. And by the way, these are, in my not-so-humble opinion, much better than the black-eyed peas that Cracker Barrel makes on New Year’s. If you find a tastier peas recipe than this one, let me know — but I don’t think you will.
Southern Black-Eyed Peas
- About 2 lb. ham shank (including skin and bone) — I used smoked ham hocks
- 1/4-1/2 lb. smoked hog jowl (today, since Kroger didn’t have that, I used bacon)
- 2 lb. black-eyed peas
- 2 large onions, diced
- 1 large green pepper, diced
- 2 tsp. dry mustard
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
First day: Cover the ham shank and hog jowl with cold water in a 4-qt pot and boil gently for two hours or until the meat comes off the bone easily. (It’s really good if you pull the meat off the bone, so you can include it in the peas later.) Chill overnight.
Second day: Skim off most of the hardened fat. Discard the fat, skin, and bones, reserving the liquid. Add dried, washed, black-eyed peas (removing the brown ones, pebbles, etc.) and soak them overnight. Use two pounds of peas to four quarts of water.
Third day: Add the remaining ingredients (onions, peppers, dry mustard, salt, and pepper). Bring to a rapid boil, cover, and simmer three hours on low heat, stirring frequently. The secret of the taste lies in soaking the beans in the ham-flavored liquid.
Note: This makes a huge amount (I found this out the hard way when I made them for Jonathan and me a couple years ago). This time, I’m cutting the recipe in half and plan to freeze a lot of it.