Southern Fresh White Acre Peas are a true Southern delicacy and one that brings to mind warm summer days and farmers’ markets overflowing with fresh vegetables.
Every summer I eagerly await the first fresh White Acre Peas of the season and can’t wait to get home and prepare them. My favorite summer meal is fresh white acre peas, sliced ripe summer tomatoes and silver queen corn, with either a side of homemade cornbread or hoe cakes! Oh my goodness, it makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
Depending on where you live, you may be wondering exactly what in the world I’m talking about. Peas in the South are entirely different from the English Peas that many of you might be familiar with. And, there are many different varieties of Southern peas including white acre peas, field peas, lady peas, crowder peas, pink lady peas, black-eyed peas, etc. All are legumes, and all are delicious. Some peas, like black-eyed and crowder peas, are a little more earthy, while white acre and lady peas are smaller and have a more delicate taste.
White acre peas freeze well, and when they become available, I usually try to buy at least a gallon and freeze them. They do need to be blanched, however, which stops the action of naturally occurring enzymes that help them ripen. To blanch peas, you simply add them to boiling water, cook for 1-1/2 minutes and then immediately plunge them into an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process. Once the peas have drained and cooled they can be stored in the freezer in plastic bags for several months.
Last fall Hurricane Hermine blew through here and we were without electricity for several days. I lost all of my frozen peas along with everything else in my freezer, and many of my friends joked that our freezers had never been so clean. Anyway, now I’m back in business with a brand new batch of frozen peas just waiting to be eaten!
If you like recipes like this, you might also be interested in my recipes for Southern Pink Lady Peas, Southern Black-Eyed Peas, and Southern Hoppin John, which is black-eyed peas and rice and is most often eaten in the South on New Year’s Day.
The recipe below for Southern Fresh White Acre Peas can be used for any type of Southern peas. You will need the following ingredients: fresh shelled peas, smoked ham hock (you can substitute salt pork or leftover ham*), onion, garlic, kosher salt, ground black pepper and bacon grease or olive oil. Optional, fresh parsley for garnish.
To cook Southern Fresh White Acre Peas, first, add bacon grease or olive oil to a medium-size saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the pan is hot, add the onion and saute for about 6-7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Watch the garlic carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Add the ham hock or whatever pork product you are using, the peas, water, kosher salt, and pepper. Add more water if necessary to cover the peas by at least an inch and turn the heat up until the peas come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let the peas simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Taste a few to check for seasoning and to see if they are done. If not continue cooking for a few more minutes. The fresher the peas are, and the smaller they are, the less time they will need to cook.
Garnish with fresh parsley if desired and serve immediately!
*Notes: You can substitute a package of dry ham flavored concentrate made by Goya for the pork products.