If you are not from the South, you are probably scratching your head about now and wondering what in the world are Pink Lady Peas or as they are also called Pink-Eyed, or Pink-Eyed Purple Hull Peas?
“Peas”, especially Lady Peas, have a special meaning for many people who grew up in the South and bring back fond memories of eating at Grandma’s house and, if you are really lucky, even sitting on her front porch or at the kitchen table and helping her shell peas.
And, no, I’m not talking about the round green English peas that come frozen, or in a can, but delicious fresh field peas, white acre peas, crowder peas, purple hull peas, black-eyed peas, pink-eyed peas and pink lady peas.
What are Lady Peas?
“Southern peas, also known as field peas or cowpeas, are actually legumes. These hearty, heat-loving beans come in all sorts of varieties (zipper, crowder, cream, black-eye, pink-eye), but according to the Southern Living magazine, one pea is king.
Or should I say, queen? Lady peas, a variety of cream peas, are prized above all others for their sweet flavor, tender texture, and pretty color—they remain pale green or yellowish-white even when cooked.”
The list of Southern peas goes on and on. All have slight flavor variations, crowders and black-eyed peas are a little earthier and the lady varieties of peas are a little more delicate and creamy.
Also, crowders and black-eyed peas need to be cooked a few minutes longer. Southern Pink Lady Peas and Pink-Eyed Peas are a true Southern delicacy and delicious when served with a slice of Traditional Southern Style Cornbread or Hoecakes aka Cornmeal Pancakes and a few slices of fresh summer tomatoes.
Where to buy fresh lady peas?
I used to buy all of my fresh peas from Tomato Land, a Tallahassee landmark. I would buy a gallon of fresh-shelled peas, take them home, blanch them and freeze them in smaller packages so I would always have some on hand.
Now that Tomato Land has closed, during the summer I usually purchase fresh shelled peas at our local farmers’ markets or the farmers’ market in Thomasville, GA. And, if you are wondering, yes I am too lazy to shell peas. It’s a character flaw, or just maybe it’s because I don’t have a front porch, or a grandchild to shell peas with.
Can you freeze fresh peas without blanching them?
The short answer is no! However, if your only choice is freezing them without blanching, or letting them spoil, go ahead and freeze them. But, and this is a big but, use them ASAP. The flavor and quality will degrade quickly.
How do you blanch fresh peas?
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.
How to cook fresh peas?
Grab a glass of ice tea and let’s get the peas cooking! All you will need are fresh-shelled peas (any kind, except English peas), an onion, garlic, and salt pork, leftover ham or a ham hock and if you really want it to be an authentic southern dish, some bacon grease.
Now, I know some of you are shaking your head, thinking that I have gone too far, but it’s how it’s done. If you just can’t bring yourself to use bacon grease, you can substitute olive oil and if the thought of adding salt pork or a ham hock is too much for you, you can substitute a package or two of dry ham flavored concentrate made by Goya.
To prepare Southern Pink Lady Peas, add bacon grease to a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the grease is hot, add the onions, reduce the heat to low and sauté for about 6-7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
Add the peas, whatever pork product you are using (I had frozen leftover ham from Easter), and about 3 cups water and bring to a boil. You want the water to cover the peas by about an inch. Skim off any foam that develops.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes. It may take a little more or a little less time depending on what kind of peas you are cooking. Stir occasionally.
Start tasting them to see if they are done about 20 minutes into the cooking process and keep tasting one or two peas every few minutes until they reach the desired texture. You don’t want to overcook them or they will be mushy.
Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Enjoy!
Wine pairing: I’ve been trying to include some wine suggestions in my last few recipes, but this southern dish is best served with sweet ice tea.
If you make this recipe, please be sure to rate it and leave a comment below. I love hearing from you!
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