Fresh Southern Lady Peas, or Pink-Eyed Peas as they are sometimes called, are quick and easy to prepare and make an excellent, make-ahead summer side dish. Whether it’s a quick weeknight dinner or Sunday supper, everyone will enjoy their unique, creamy deliciousness.
“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 fortunate, even sitting on her front porch or at the kitchen table and helping her shell them.
And, no, I’m not talking about the round green English ones that come frozen or in a can, but delicious fresh Southern peas like field peas, white acres, zipper or cream, purple hull, black-eyed peas, and lady peas.
What are they?
Southern peas, also known as cowpeas, are legumes. These hearty, heat-loving beans come in all shapes and sizes, with small variations in texture and flavor. Crowders and black-eyed peas are a little earthier and take longer to cook, the lady varieties are a bit more delicate and creamy.
What to serve with them?
Where to buy them?
I used to buy all of my fresh peas from Tomato Land, a Tallahassee landmark. I would buy a gallon of them freshly-shelled, 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, I usually purchase fresh shelled peas at our local farmers’ markets or the farmers’ markets in south Georgia. They are usually available during the summer and early fall.
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 here to shell peas with me.
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 them?
To blanch them, you simply add them to boiling water, cook for 1-½ minutes and then immediately plunge them into an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process. Once they have drained and cooled, they can be stored in the freezer in plastic bags for several months.
Here’s what you will need for this recipe:
All you will need are fresh-shelled peas, an onion, garlic, and salt pork, leftover ham, or a ham hock, and if you 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 purchased dry ham flavored concentrate.
Here’s how to make this recipe:
Grab a glass of sweet ice tea, and let’s get cooking!
Add bacon grease to a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions, reduce the heat to low and sauté for about six to seven 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 three 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 20 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 15 minutes into the cooking process and keep tasting 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 and check out my purple hull peas recipe while you are at it!
Every year I get calls from folks looking for fresh peas for Thanksgiving when they aren’t in season. Plan ahead; stalk your farmers’ markets, buy them now, blanch them, and freeze them. You will thank me in November!
I frequently use purchased frozen chopped onions in this recipe to save time.
If you are using frozen peas, you can add them to the pan without first defrosting.
You can make this recipe up to 48 hours ahead. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to reheat and reheat in a saucepan on the stove.
All of my pea recipes are interchangeable. In other words, you can use this recipe for any type of Southern pea.
This recipe calls for a smoked ham hock. Suitable substitutes are salt pork, pork belly, bacon, smoked pork chops, and leftover ham.
If you like Southern-style recipes like this one, you might also like these popular recipes on my blog: Baked Mac and Cheese, Cheese Grits Casserole, Southern Potato Salad, Creamed Corn, Fried Corn, Fried Oysters, Squash Casserole, and Southern Fried Chicken.
If you need more menu ideas here is a link to all of my Southern-style recipes.
★ If you make this recipe, please consider rating it and leaving a comment. I’d love to know how you liked it!
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Southern Pink Lady Peas
- 3 cups fresh shelled pink lady peas
- 3 cups water
- 1 smoked ham hock or ¼ lb salt pork slices or about ¼ leftover ham pieces
- ½ cup onions finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon bacon grease
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 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 six to seven minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
- Add the peas, whatever pork product you are using, and about three 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 20 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 15 minutes into the cooking process and keep tasting one or two peas every few minutes until they are tender. You don’t want to overcook them, or they will be mushy.
- Add salt and pepper and serve. Enjoy!