Thursday, May 3, 2012

Southern Style Lady Cream Peas

Lady cream peas, seasoned with smoked meat, onion, garlic and fresh herbs, served with a side of cornbread and pictured here, with broiled chicken.

Southern Style Lady Cream Peas

Even though white beans and red beans and rice are common weekly features here in the Deep South, I love beans of all kinds, and all I need is a good rainy day like we had yesterday to have an excuse to make some, no matter the temperature outside. Most often served as a side dish to other foods, southern peas are another love of mine, and I absolutely adore Lady Cream Peas for their buttery flavor and super creamy texture.

Known as field peas, cowpeas, and simply southern peas - though calling them peas is a bit of a misnomer, since they are all actually beans - they are identifiable by their small size and by the seed-eye you'll find on them, that tiny little familiar spot most of us immediately recognize from black-eyed peas the most.

It won't be long and you'll be able to find fresh Lady Cream Peas on the roadside in many parts of the Deep South, though I can never manage to chase any down around here. I don't even know if anybody even grows them here locally to be honest. Course, it would probably help if I hit the farmers market a little early or travel outside of the "city," because those are the places you are most likely to find them. Heck, it's hard to even find them dried at the stores here, so I just order mine online direct from Camellia. Though fresh is best, dried will certainly do, and it's worth the cost of shipping to me to be able to enjoy them right from my pantry.

Photo: Camellia Brand Beans
Lady Cream Peas are just another variety of the southern pea - in the same family as those more familiar, black-eyed peas, crowder peas, field peas and purple hull peas, to name a few... though there are literally dozens of varieties of them in each of those categories. Some varieties such as Mississippi Cream, White Acre and Floricream, fall into a cream group called conch, while Lady Cream, Royal Cream, and Zipper Cream are found in a group called cream crowders.

Most southern peas and beans are cooked about the same way - some kind of smoked meat, often bacon, andouille sausage, tasso, ham or ham hock - is used for the base seasoning. To that we add some onion and garlic, sometimes a hot pepper, and from there it's just a few minor variations in the herbs and seasonings used depending on the variety of pea and your own personal preferences. In fact, if you don't have access to Lady Cream Peas you could certainly use this recipe for other southern peas.

Here's how I make my Lady Cream Peas.

Rinse and sort the peas and add to a Dutch oven or soup pot.

I used tasso which is a highly seasoned cured pork that has been rubbed with a variety of spices and seasonings prior to smoking - including plenty of cayenne pepper. It is firm in texture like ham, but adds a huge kick of rich and spicy flavor to dishes. Because tasso is so highly seasoned, I'm using it first with just the beans and water before adding the other seasonings. This will infuse the flavor into the water and beans though you can certainly add everything all together as well. You may use pretty much any smoked meat you favor - bacon, ham, ham hocks, smoked sausage and smoked turkey even.

Chop up the tasso or smoked ham, and add it, along with the water to the peas.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.

Now it's ready for some additional seasoning!

In a separate skillet, sauté the onion in the butter until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Since I used a spicy tasso to season my broth, I skipped the hot peppers, however, if you use a milder smoked meat, jalapeno is a great addition to kick up the flavor a bit. Clean the jalapeno of the seeds and ribs, dice, then add in here with the onion to saute it.

Transfer the skillet contents, including all of the drippings, to the pot. Add all of the seasonings, except for the salt and pepper.

Continue cooking, uncovered, for another 1/2 hour, or longer, until peas are tender and liquid has reduced to consistency desired. Taste and add salt and pepper only as needed.

Recipe: Southern Style Lady Cream Peas

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 1 hour 30 min | Yield: About 6 servings

  • 1 pound dried lady cream peas, soaked overnight
  • 1/4 pound of pork tasso or smoked ham, chopped
  • 10 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Soak beans overnight to speed the cooking process. Rinse and sort the peas and add to a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the tasso or smoked ham and the water; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.

In a separate skillet, sauté the onion in the butter until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Transfer the skillet contents, including all of the drippings, to the pot. Add all of the seasonings, except for the salt and pepper, and continue cooking uncovered for another 1/2 hour, or longer, until peas are tender and liquid has reduced to consistency desired.

Taste, season with salt and pepper only as needed. Serve with a side of cornbread as a main dish meal over rice, or as a side dish with your favorite meat.


Cook's Notes: Use this recipe with other southern peas, such as black-eyed peas, crowder peas, field peas, butter peas and purple hull peas. Jalapeno or other hot peppers are a nice seasoning addition for many southern peas. Since I used spicy tasso this time, I left the peppers out, but feel free to add some in if you use a milder smoked meat. Can substitute dried herbs for the fresh - reduce to about 1/4 heaping teaspoon. I used Camellia brand dried lady cream peas, but fresh peas can be used also. Total cooking time will be reduced to 45 minutes to an hour or so. If you love Lady Cream Peas but you're having trouble finding them in your area, you can buy them in dried form direct from Camellia online.

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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on May 3, 2012
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  1. Yum! I haven't have these since I was a kis in Arkansas. You made me crave them when I had forgotten all about them. Thanks!

  2. I sure like the sound of this! I'll bet they're delicious!

    1. They really are Eva - nice & creamy!

    2. Just bought a fresh bag at a roadside Peach farm on my way to Houston. Love ...

  3. Mmmm, we love cream peas. They are hard to find around here but we always get them in Texas.

    1. Yes, they are very popular in Texas & they really are delicious aren't they?!

  4. I live in Texas but have never seen them here. I could find them when I lived in Alabama though. These and purple hulls w/snaps were delicious!

  5. Wow, i wondered where you got cream peas from, and then I saw you ordered them from Camellias. Thanks for sharing that and your recipe looks good, too!

    1. I sure love them and ya know, a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do LOL!! I'm sure they are available somewhere around here but it's just easier to order them rather than try to chase them down, so I order a variety box full for the pantry. I do the same thing with Duke's mayonnaise!

  6. Mary these look incredible and such a comforting dish!

  7. I love these peas! I planted some in my garden but don't think I planted enough to cook:( May have to order some if I can't find any in the farmer's market. Will plant more next year. However, have plenty of okra, will be making gumbo soon!

    1. One thing that I learned about pole beans and peas is that you really do have to plant a lot to get any return. Wish I knew somebody around here that sold them from a farm! They used to be grown down here but it's rare to find them these days for some reason.

  8. These were my mother's and are my brother's favorites. I like them too. I had not seen them dry here in TX and few people grow anything around hear other that Zippers. However, I have found them frozen at one of the local stores, so that's what I have used when I cooked them lately. This recipe sounds great.

  9. Oh I wish, wish I could find these! I just moved back to MS from Arkansas...maybe they'll be more available here. My absolute FAVORITE!!

  10. I was searching the internet for a source for lady cream peas.Came across your Blog. It was raining cats/dogs here in N.Tx on yesterday...decided to cook my cream peas I'd purchased FRESH from Albertson Grocery store.Amazing ,as you alluded to the rain & the plate from which you are eating from is the EXACT same plate I ate my dinner from.I cook them a little different as we don't eat a lot of red meat_actually yesterday_Monday_was our Meatless Meal Day! Now,I'm East Texan by birth & grew up shelling bushels of these delicious peas,swearing I'd never shell another pea when I got grown! They are so hard to find_but an elderly lady who lives close to our farm_has in the past bought me several grocery store bags full.I'd show you a photo but have no way on this comment section_but click on my link to my Blog_go to the bottom where it says "Things that Make Me Smile" for a photo. Just above it is a creation I made for Dessert...A Pumpkin Chocolate Pecan Pie". I'm pretty sure you'll find stories of your life on the Front Porch Swing here's a link to my Blog : Happy Southern Cooking!

  11. Question, Mary. Why are the onions cooked separately? I've always thrown the trinity in the pot with the beans. IMO, there would be more flavor added to the beans, and the veggies would be soft and transparent. Just curious. :)

    1. Yep, you sure can do that Bonnie! For me, I'm sort of making a broth using the flavors from the tasso first, then adding in the onion & the rest of the seasonings to continue cooking the beans. You can sure do it all at the beginning too though.

    2. Thanks, Mary! I just thought that maybe I was missing out on some extra flavor or something, by doing it the way I've always done it. I do know other people do it the way you do, with red beans. It's odd...I live in Breaux Bridge, LA, and none of my friends have ever heard of Lady Cream Peas. Strange. They're so delicious! Thanks for all of your recipes! You're the best, Mary! :)

    3. If it wasn't for Camelia brand dried lady cream, I would have them either - used to be people grew them and had them for sale at farmer's markets, but I keep asking at the Biloxi market and they are hard to come by in south Mississippi anymore for some reason. I don't know why - they are delicious!!

      I usually put everything in at once with my beans too, unless I am trying to develop flavor in the broth first from a ham bone or like here tasso since both add a lot of flavor. The tasso is so highly spiced that I wanted to allow that to develop first before adding the additional seasonings.

    4. LOL and Bonnie, NOW I'm craving some lady cream peas!!! :)

    5. Haha, Mary! Did you know that you can also get them in the frozen food section? I can't remember which grocery store...maybe several. It's been a while since I bought them like that, and I really don't know why, because I prefer them to the dried ones. Check your stores in Biloxi. Thinking of Biloxi makes me want to go to the beach! My mom's family is from Bay St. Louis, so I've spent many summers on the Mississippi coast. Love it there! :)

    6. Mary, I used your recipe to cook fresh lady cream peas, and paired them with your fried southern hoe cakes! Immediately went back in time to our grandmothers' kitchen tables. The BEST meal ever. I could eat them every day!!! Jane in Texas

    7. Aw, thank you so much for sharing that Jane!! I do love that meal too.

      Bonnie, I somehow missed your follow up message before, so sorry! I've not seen them in the freezer section but I keep looking for them at the Farmer's Market!!

  12. Mary, I found Lady peas fresh frozen at Donna's #6, just south of Jackson on hwy 49. I stocked up on them. I think they must be seasonal because I can't always find them always. I am going to check at local veg. stands for them. There is a large stand in Gulfport on Pass Road. Keep your fingers cross that they have them. I'm cooking the Lady Peas now with chunks of ham. Can't wait to eat.

    1. Oh! Keep me posted on the Gulfport stand & what you think about the recipe too!!

  13. If you live in East Texas, you can get a variety of fresh beans & peas from Sides Pea Farm. The farm & store are located just outside Canton.

  14. I made this tonight for my grandparents... I don't care about peas... It was delicious!


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