Thursday, January 6, 2011

How to Make Old Fashioned Black-Eyed Peas

photo courtesy of "Frankly Southern." 

On the 2nd day of 2011 I made a big pot of black-eyed peas. Some say you should eat them on New Year's Day for good luck (along with greens for money!) but we just eat them because they taste daggone good. And it just so happens that today is National Bean Day! Make sure to stop by Thomas' blog "The GF/CF Experience" for Slow Cooked Turkey Chili!

The Broth Process: 

Basically to make a pot of really good, old-fashioned black-eyed peas, it can be a two day process (well if you got up late like I did... lol). First you need the broth. I had a leftover ham bone in the freezer that I made my broth with. We ate ham for Christmas, I saved the leftover bone & meat just for making black eyed peas on New Year's! All the healthy nutrients from the bone and leftover meat are released in the broth as it's slow simmered in water. Make sure to defrost your ham bone. Pull it out of the freezer a day before you plan on making your broth.

Basically place your defrosted or fresh ham bone in a large stock pot. Fill the pot 3/4 full of fresh, filtered water. Place the pot on a back burner of your stove and allow it to come to a boil, then turn the heat down and allow it to gently simmer until the liquid has reduced down by 1/4. (This will take several hours -- if not most of the day!) If you want a more concentrated broth (more flavor) you can continue to reduce down the liquid to the amount you need. As this process does take a long time, it also works great in a slow cooker if you'd rather not have your stove on all day long. If you use your slow cooker, you don't need as much water since it will not evaporate quickly.

Dried Beans VS. Frozen Beans: 

You can use dried black-eyed peas or frozen black-eyed peas. The dried variety are a more frugal option but they do need to be soaked overnight (or at least 8 hours) to be ready to cook. Frozen black-eyed peas offer the convenience of not having to soak the beans as they are already hydrated and ready to cook.

If you're not used to cooking with dried beans, I recommend using frozen. Dried beans, while much cheaper, can often take longer to cook than the fresh/frozen black eyed peas available, even after the soaking process.

For my batch of black-eyed peas this year, I used 2 bags of frozen black-eyed peas.

**A very instructive guide for soaking & cooking dried beans.**

Cooking the Beans: 

Once your broth has cooked down to the amount of liquid you'd like (about half a stock pot) you have several options. First you'll want to remove the ham bone & strain the stock to remove any impurities. You can then refrigerate the broth overnight (or at least for several hours) or you can cook your beans immediately. I like to refrigerate the broth so that the saturated fat in the broth will rise to the top and harden. You can then spoon off the fat to remove it and you will have a low fat (but very flavorful) broth to cook your beans in.

When you're ready to cook the beans, simply add them to the broth. Place the broth on a back burner and allow the bean & water to come to a boil. Then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Now, you can basically cook the beans as long as you'd like. The package of frozen black-eyed peas said that they needed to cook for at least 15-20 minutes in boiling water. Now, I've cooked frozen & dried beans for years and I can tell you you'll have very hard beans if you only cook them for 20 minutes. Beans are often made in the slow cooker because they can withstand long cooking times.

I cooked my black-eyed peas at a very gentle simmer (low heat) for at least 3-4 hours. If it looks like the liquid is evaporating a little too quickly add more water or broth to the beans. I used an entire half stock-pot full of broth by the time my beans were finished.

While the beans are cooking make sure to season them with flavors you like! We added:
  • 3 whole cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 finely chopped onion, which I sauteed on the stove in a little olive oil
  • the leftover meat from the ham bone
  • a little tomato sauce for color
  • 3-4 tablespoons of freshly chopped cilantro (this is also pretty sprinkled on your bowl of finished black-eyed peas!) 
  • salt & pepper
  • a tiny bit of cayenne pepper
The beauty of dishes like this is that you rarely make them the same way twice, but they always taste amazing! The slow simmer, the anticipation of waiting for those perfectly cooked beans, the amazing flavor of the slow cooked broth... for such a simple dish, this is one of my favorite and I'm determined to make black-eyed peas more often this year. 

Of all the dishes I've made in the past few months, I think this was my husband's favorite. He had three bowls. He just kept saying, "I always forget how GOOD black-eyed peas are." He didn't want anything else with them. Just a hearty bowl of beans. 

And if you have "windy issues" afterwards, Phazyme Gas Relief is gluten free! lol But honestly we didn't have any trouble digesting these. 

A dish like this is filled with love. Simple, hearty, tasty, nutritious, and filling. 

Now go make a pot of beans! 


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