I grew up eating fresh peas of all kinds… Field Peas, Crowder Peas (still a huge favorite), Spring Peas, Sweet Peas, Black Eyed Peas, Purple Hull Peas and my current favorite, Lady Cream Peas.
These all can be prepared in the same basic way. It’s very easy, though it takes a little time because of the long simmer to soften the peas just right. Vegetarians can omit the bacon and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. You can also vary the spice level depending on the peppers you use.
Peas prepared this way remain one of my great joys in life.
LADY CREAM PEAS
(Serves 8, or 4 with wonderful leftovers)
1 lb Lady Cream Peas (or peas of your choice)
3 strips of bacon
One medium sweet onion, diced pretty fine
6 cloves of garlic, smashed flat
leaves from 3-4 sprigs of thyme
1 or 2 peppers of your choice, diced fine (I like 2 Fresnos here, for the touch of red but Jalapeño, Serrano, any pepper will do)
2 quarts stock (I use chicken)
salt, pepper, white pepper
The night before:
Sort through the peas, throwing away any that look shriveled or gray or abnormal, then rinse the peas in a colander. (You can do this at the same time. It will be obvious which pease you want to toss.)
Place the peas in a bowl and cover with broth by at least an inch. (See note below). Let sit overnight. I leave these on the counter but if that makes you nervous, stick them in the fridge.
The next morning:
Saute’ the bacon over medium heat in a 4-6 quart pot. When the bacon starts to soften, add the onions, peppers and smashed garlic. If there isn’t enough fat from the bacon to coat the vegetables, add a little olive oil. Saute’ until the vegetables are soft. Add the thyme leaves. (You do not want crispy bacon here, just soft.)
Add the peas and the broth from the bowl, if any broth remains. (Much of the broth should have been absorbed by the peas.) Add more broth to cover the peas by at least an inch.
Bring to a hard boil and let stay at a boil 5-10 minutes, skimming off any ‘froth’ that comes to the top.
Reduce to a simmer and let sit at the lowest simmer you can, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until the peas are soft. The broth should just have little bubbles coming to the surface here and there. You can use a heat diffuser under your pot to help. (This is my favorite.) This will take a few hours. Just let them simmer while you do other things.
About 2 hours in, season well with salt and pepper. You must do this by taste. This is a nice sized pot of peas so you can start with 2 Tablespoons of salt and a few good grindings of black pepper. Keep tasting the peas and broth. I also like a few good shakes of White Pepper.
If the broth begins to get just to the level of the peas, add some warmed broth to the pot to keep the peas under the liquid. Then season again. Keep tasting, adding salt if need be.
The peas are ready when soft and starchy. Be careful stirring toward the end so you don’t smush them together. You can throw in some fresh chopped flat leaf parsley before you serve, for a little more flavor and some color. But they are wonderful without.
NOTE: There are divided opinions about soaking dried peas/beans. I am a soaker and stand by it. Also, some people say don’t use broth, just use water. There are fancy, expensive heirloom beans where this may be true. But I love the added flavor broth gives my peas and beans. I of course use homemade broth. It makes an enormous difference.
Also, some people drain the beans after soaking and then start fresh. They are wrong. The soaking broth will add a lot of starch and wonderful flavor to the peas, even if you use just water.