Southern superstition says that eating blackeyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck throughout the year. The origins of this tradition are unclear. Some of my research says that these peas were about all that Sherman left when he marched through burning or destroying everything in his path. There is also some indication that the peas were brought to this country by African slaves and the good luck promise may have come with them. A more recent legend is that during the Depression, many people survived by eating them. They are drought resistant and require very little water making them easy to grow without irrigation during dry spells. I used to know a man who grew up during that time who said until his dying day that he always tipped his hat to a pea patch.
Growing up, I confess that I did not like peas very much. Even so, I always ate at least a spoonful on New Year’s Day. Here is the traditional recipe for cooking them:
1 package of dried blackeyed peas
one 2 to 3 ounce piece of salt pork or ham hock or 3 slices of bacon
water to cover the peas
salt to taste
The night before they are to be cooked, rinse the peas thoroughly before placing them in a stockpot. Cover them with about an inch and a half of water and let them soak over night.
The next day, drain the water off and rinse them again. Then add the pork and cover them again with about an inch and a half of water. Bring the pot to a boil then cover it and reduce the heat to a simmer. It should take about 2 to 3 hours before they are tender. Be sure to check on them every half hour or so to see if they need more water. You will want the ‘juice’ to be somewhat thick. Salt the peas after they have finished cooking. Adding the salt to the water before cooking them can result in hard peas that won’t soften at all.
My usual way of cooking them:
As I said, I didn’t really care for peas growing up. I now prefer this more flavorful version.
Soak the peas overnight as above if you are using dried peas. I prefer frozen ones or fresh if I can get them. If you are not using dried peas, skip the soaking step.
Cover the rinsed peas with water.
1 can of tomatoes. I like diced ones for this.
1 medium onion quartered
3 cloves of garlic, whole
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
Cover and bring to a boil. Proceed with directions for the traditional recipe or the directions on the package if you are using frozen or fresh peas.
This is what I will probably do this year because I now live at 7000 feet above sea level and have yet to invest in a pressure cooker. I am not sure it is possible to cook beans and peas without one here.
This is usually made with canned peas but can be made with traditionally cooked peas. Either way, rinse the peas thoroughly before using them for this application.
2 cans black-eyed peas, drained
3 1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 small onion, cut into small dice
1/2 bell pepper, cut into small dice.
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 or 2 fresh medium jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and minced, optional
Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl; cover and refrigerate 2 hours or up to 2 days. Before serving, adjust seasonings to taste, adding extra vinegar, salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl.