Cast iron simmered Black-Eyed Peas and Ham. This recipe is notably simple, just black-eyed peas, chicken stock, water, ham steak, garlic, salt, and pepper.
An iconic southern recipe, black-eyed peas and ham doesn’t include peas at all. These easily identified legumes are actually a bean, with loads of good things like potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium and folate and offer 11 grams of fiber per cup. High in protein (20%), low in fat and a great source for Vitamin B1. The added pork, however, is NOT a nutritional superstar … but boy does it go down easy with these little dark eyed beauties.
The inspiration for this recipe comes from The Latest and Best Cookbook, published in 1884 (click on the book title for the Kindle version on Amazon). In my fragile copy, Ms. Pearli Y Peck signed her name just inside the cover over a hundred years ago. The paper is dark, the book binding shot, but you can still read the recipes. This early soup called for a 3 lb soup bone, 1 quart of beans, an onion, juice of a lemon, pepper, salt, Durkee’s Challenge Sauce (similar to English Worcestershire) and 6 hours of slow boil. I modified it a bit by replacing onion with garlic (everything is better with garlic), no lemon and sadly, no actual Challenge Sauce. Unless someone has an old bottle in a barn somewhere, this particular sauce is no longer available.
Apparently Durkee’s Challenge Sauce was all the rage because you see lots of cookbooks of this era including it in recipes. The Durkee company claimed “pronounced by conniseurs unqualifiedly the best, and at the same time, perfect for table use”. Of course, advertisements of the time were prone to sensationalism. Oh well.
Throw in your ingredients, and simmer
This recipe could not be easier. Simply place peas, ham steak, garlic, broth, water, ground pepper and red pepper in a cast iron skillet or a dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes to an hour.
Also called a cowpea, black-eyed peas aren’t one of those legumes you have to soak ahead of time. Soaking helps to shorten cooking time, but it isn’t essential. Feel free to use dried beans; just cook them a little longer.
Growing black-eyed peas in your garden
Bush varieties of black-eyed peas can easily be grown in a 12 inch deep pot. You’ll need a trellis. These vertical growing climbing plants will hook themselves onto whatever is around, including themselves. Give them something to hang on to or you’ll have a weighted mass of pea dreadlocks.
For the freshest tasting peas and if you are cooking right away, harvest black-eyed peas when the pod is just turning yellow. If you are storing your peas, harvest them when the pods and peas have completely dried.
A traditional southerner will tell you it’s good luck to have this dish on New Year’s Day; brings prosperity, ya know. You also might consider “Hoppin John”. It’s another southern tradition, made with black-eyed peas, ham, and rice.
Easy peasy recipe below (ha!). Enjoy!
- 1.5 lbs black-eyed peas
- 1 ham steak
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup unsalted chicken broth
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 Tb salt
- 2 tsp ground pepper
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
- Put all ingredients together in a cast iron skillet or dutch oven.
- Bring to a high heat boil.
- Reduce heat to simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
- When peas are tender, it's ready.