I’ve been working on the pickle section of my book, and I’ve concluded that just about anything can be brined and preserved. Fruit, vegetables, meat, and eggs—it’s a rare food that doesn’t get a flavor boost from vinegar, spices, aromatics, salt and (sometimes) sugar. So when I was trying to come up with new ways to serve the pounds of purple hull peas I brought back with me from Texas, my decision was simple: I’d pickle my purple hull peas.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating purple hull peas, they’re a field pea that is similar to black-eyed peas, but with a more delicate and sweet flavor. They’re also prettier with their light-purple blush.
My family never grew purple-hull peas because apparently with these good looks comes high maintenance—they’re a lot tougher to shell than other field peas. But if you do persist, you will be rewarded with a creamy, light pea that needs little adornment to taste wonderful.
In Texas, this time of year you will find fresh purple-hull peas sold on the side of the road, at farmers markets and at many grocery stores, too. I’ve never seen them sold fresh, frozen or dried in New York, which is why I’ve taken to stocking up if I happen to make it home during the summer. Though if you live in Texas, you’ll find them year round in the freezer section as well as fresh during the summer.
The simplest way to prepare them is to boil them for about half an hour, with some aromatics such as onion and garlic. You can also throw in some bacon and jalapeños if you’re feeling bold. And with just a sprinkle of salt and a wedge of cornbread, you’ll have yourself a fine feast.
To stave off summer’s heat, however, I wanted to make something cold and tangy. So instead of serving a steaming bowl, I instead tossed my cooked peas with some lime juice, jalapeños, peppers, garlic and olive oil, stuck them in a jar and refrigerated them. And yep, I decided that they were indeed pickled!
These go well with chips, in a scooped-out tomato, tossed in a salad or simply eaten on their own. And if you can’t find purple hull peas, you can easily substitute black-eyed peas.
What do you like to make with purple hull peas?
4 cups of shelled purple hull peas, uncooked (or 2 15-oz cans drained and rinsed of all juice)
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1-2 jalapeño chiles, finely diced (amount based on how hot you want the salad!)
1 ripe tomato, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayene
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and black pepper to taste
If using fresh purple hull peas, place them in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 40 minutes or until tender. Drain.
Mix the purple hull peas with the garlic, jalapeños, tomato, cilantro, cumin, cayenne, olive oil and lime juice. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
Chill for 4 hours and then serve. Can serve in a scooped-out tomato, with tortilla chips or as a stand-alone side dish.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Here’s a place to mail order canned purple hull peas, if you’re interested.