Black-eyed peas are a famous American legume with a long culinary history stemming from the regions of the South where African, Caribbean, French, Creole, and Cajun influences have paired them with smoked meats, onions, and chiles–foods that beans love to hang around with. The only northern bean dish that rivals black-eyed peas is Boston baked beans, which are loaded with sweet molasses and sugar. I prefer black-eyed peas because I was raised by farmers from the southern Midwest–and I don’t believe in dessert as a side dish.

You don’t have to soak black-eyed peas as long as I do, but it won’t hurt them. I find it easier to soak them overnight so that they are ready for me the next morning. I like to sit down to a whole bowl of these legumes, as the taste and texture of perfectly cooked black-eyed peas are just wonderful.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds dried black-eyed peas

10 ounces hog jowl, left in 1 chunk

1 smoked ham hock

1 large onion, quartered

1 serrano or jalapeno chile pepper, halved and seeded (wear plastic gloves when handling)

2 teaspoons molasses

DIRECTIONS

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soak the peas in cool water to cover in a large bowl for at least 6 hours and up to 12 hours.

Cover the hog jowl and ham hock with water by 2″ to 3″ in a stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 11/2 hours. During cooking, skim the foam that rises to the surface several times.

Drain the peas. Add them to the pot with the jowl and hock. Add the onion, chile pepper, and molasses. Do not add salt at this time. If there is not sufficient stock to cover the peas, add water until there is. Cover tightly and simmer gently over low heat for about 2 hours, or until the peas are tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Season to taste with salt and black pepper and serve.

This recipe also appeared in Michel’s Book Sustainably Delicious: Making the World a Better Place One Recipe at a Time published by Rodale Books.