Sunday, July 19, 2020

Classic Fresh Purple Hull Peas

A basic recipe for fresh purple hull peas, simply seasoned with bacon, onion, garlic and salt and pepper.
A classic recipe for southern peas, in this case, fresh purple hulls, simply seasoned with bacon, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, perfect as a side dish or as a feature on a vegetable plate. Pictured here with my whiskey glazed baked ham, Dr. Weil's steamed broccoli and the cornbread from my cookbook {affil link}, made with stone ground cornmeal from the Smoky Mountains.

Fresh Purple Hull Peas

If I had to pick one of my favorite southern peas, it'd have to be purple hulls. I just love them, and they are super easy to grow and easy to find, even if you don't grow your own.

Purple hull peas get their name from the color of the hull, and it used to be that if you ever shelled any from the pod, your purple stained fingers would be a dead giveaway. It might be that most shelling takes place in an air conditioned home these days, rather than in a rocker on the front porch in the heat and humidity, but I've shelled several pounds at a time and didn't have issue with those colorful fingers.

This is the method I use for a pot of purple hulls, intended to be served as a side dish, or a component of a vegetable plate, and it's the same base method I use for most other southern peas. Fresh, frozen and dried peas all work fine, the only variant being cooking times, and if dried, whether or not you need to soak them first. Salt pork, ham hocks or good ole bacon will work as your base seasoning, as will any number of other smoked meats.

You're more likely to find purple hulls fresh, in the pod, or shelled and frozen, at your local farmer's market, while black-eyed peas are most often cooked from dried. Some folks will tell you that purple hulls have much more flavor than black-eyed peas, and though I'd agree to some degree, I think they are very similar in size, taste and texture. Purple hull peas are also very popular canned, and I use this same basic method to dress those up too.

Here's how I make them.

First things first, of course, you have to shell those peas, or you can also buy them already shelled and frozen at your local farmer's market for a little more money. Rinse well.

Pork is bred so lean these days, that depending on the brand bacon I use, I find that you often need a little bit of fat to start with. Add that to a large pot and heat over medium high heat. Add chopped bacon, onion and garlic. Add seasonings, sugar, peas and enough water to cover the peas - how much will literally depend on the size pot you use. Bring to a boil, reduce to a medium high simmer, and cook about 30 minutes, skimming off any foam that accumulates. Lower the fire to medium low, cover and continue cooking another 20 to 30 minutes, or until the peas are tender, stirring occasionally. Add more water if necessary - you want to keep about an inch of water above the peas.

I like my purple hulls with a good amount of pot likker and juicy, so if you prefer them more dry, lower the liquid and use a slotted spoon to extract the cooked peas. When peas are tender, taste, adjust seasonings and place in a serving bowl. Serve with sliced, fresh or pickled sweet onion, sliced garden tomatoes and skillet cornbread.

To add okra pods, rinse pods and place on top of the beans during the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Some folks like to cut the okra up and cook it along with the peas. I prefer the whole pods with the peas, because cut up, they tend to make the peas on the gooey, slimy side.

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Posted by on January 1, 2020
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