Black Eyed Peas with Ham and Greens is a long-standing tradition throughout much of the South. This dish and others like it, like our Hoppin’ John, are often served on New Year’s Day in areas of the Southern United States and the idea behind the tradition is that the dish through its different components and what each one represents brings good fortune those who eat it. My husband grew up eating this dish and for him, it’s just belly warming, flavorful, comfort food. While there are many recipes for Black Eyed Peas with Ham and Greens , each family has a slightly different version and often method for cooking this classic Southern dish. We tend to switch our recipe sometimes cooking it with whatever ingredients we have on hand. We call this style of recipe a “back pocket” recipe — one we know so well that we can easily change or substitute ingredients at will and still know it will taste great.
Some people enjoy using smoked ham hocks or even bacon or salt pork in place of the diced ham in this dish. More often than not, we use left over ham from Sunday supper and whip up this convenient dish. Other times, I opt to buy diced ham (sold in the grocer’s meat case) for a quick and easy meal. My husband keeps a couple of cans of black-eyed peas on the shelf for station days when he’s on duty. These quick short-cut tips, help him make a quick, flavorful meal on nights when he’s away from home but craving comfort food. To further help him along, we buy a bag of frozen pre-cut onions and peppers (sweet onion, green bell pepper and red bell pepper) and it’s a real-time saver and is quite economical.
Generally, I like to use kale or collard as my greens of choice but today I had a fresh bag of spinach that needed to be used up so I added them in their place. Sometimes, I start with bagged, dry beans but they do take longer to cook and so most often I like to start with a bag of frozen black-eyed peas instead. Canned black-eyed peas can also be used to cut down the cooking time — making this a 30 minute meal– but are salty and need to be drained and rinsed prior to use. This greatly reduces the amount of salt in the dish but can still be a little salty. That being said, if you use canned beans, start with less salt than used in the recipe in your initial seasoning and gradually add more until you reach your desired taste. The cooking time for canned beans, of course, will also be much shorter that either the dry bean or frozen beans with most of the cooking time devoted to making the flavorful broth. Once the broth is complete and full of flavor, you’ll add the diced ham and spinach and beans and cook until just heated through so that the ham retains its flavor, the spinach is still green. just barely wilted and full of flavor and the beans do not get too over-cooked or mushy.
Sometimes, seeded and diced jalapeno are added to give this dish some spice. However, we’ve just discovered a brand of hot sauce that we really enjoy, called Valentina. It’s spicy and comes in regular and extra hot but unlike most hot sauces that have almost no flavor and all heat, this brand offers wonderful flavors that really complement this dish. My husband prefers it now to even the leading (and way more expensive) brand on the market. It really is good and the small amount added, was more than enough to flavor this dish with enough of a kick to make it enjoyable for me. If you’re a heat spice lover, you may want to add a little more to your bowl at serving time. I add just one extra dash and a quick squeeze of lemon. For this New England transplant now loving in the South and married to a Southerner, this is comfort food. 🙂
Black Eyed Peas with Ham and Greens
Yield 8 servings
- 1/2 tsp olive oil
- 2 cloves (about 2 teaspoons) garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 1/2 cup chopped bell peppers
- 1 - 16 oz bag frozen black-eyed peas (see notes)
- 4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable or chicken stock
- 1/2 teaspoon each of onion powder and garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons salt, more or less - to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, more or less - to taste
- 1 ham bone (optional)
- 1 lb ham shank (not deli ham), cubed
- 1 tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce
- 1 - 8 ounce bag fresh spinach
- 1 lb ham shank (not deli ham), cubed
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan, add the onion, garlic and bell peppers and saute 4-5 minutes or until tender.
- Next, add the ham bone, black-eyed peas, vegetable stock and seasonings.
- Cover and cook for 1 to 1.5 hrs or until the peas have reached their desired tenderness.
- Remove the ham bone and stir in the diced ham and spinach. Taste and adjust seasonings. When the spinach is wilted and the ham is heated through the beans are ready to serve.
To Use Dried Peas: Follow the instructions above for 1 pound dried peas, but add twice as much water to cover the peas. Bring to boil, then simmer 1 1/2 hours until very tender and almost falling apart.Canned black eyed peas can also be used to cut down the cooking time -- making this a 30 minute meal. Be sure to both rinse and drain the bean prior to adding them to the stock. These beans are done once they are heated through. I add them right at the end with the bits of ham. The broth is so flavorful, it more than compensates for the canned black eyed peas.