August 17, 2011

Lady Peas ~ Summer's Delicacy

You can call these a winner...

We southerners are peculiar about our peas. Some like the hearty, dark-meat types like the black-eyes, crowders, purple hulls and pink-eyes which makes the best darken broth; others cherish pale lady creams, zipper peas (also known as white crowders) and butter peas which yields light broths.

Lady Peas are my very favorite summer delicacy and they are only available for a short time during the summer and you can only get ‘em here in the South. Some folks refer to these as cream peas 'cause when cooked, that's exactly what you taste, pure creaminess. These old-fashion heritage peas are smaller, sweeter and a lot more tender than most peas.
Very good green but best when matured into the cream coloration. The small pods resemble kernels of fresh white corn cut from the cob and are just as tender and almost as sweet. Lady peas are best cooked with very little seasoning, nothing too heavy to mask over the delicate, buttery flavor. I hear tell some folks say white acre peas are the same and maybe so, I guess we a little slow down here, not up to changbut if you ever get your hands on some tiny, fresh picked lady peas, I think you'll be convinced otherwise.

By the way, congratulations to Jim Smith, executive chef to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, with his win last week in the Great American Seafood Cook-off in NOLA. Facing some of the heavyweights of the American culinary scene, he represented Alabama in the 8th annual Great American Seafood Cook-off, an event designed to focus attention on the diversity of American seafood. The dish he chose to prepare was called “Late Summer Alabama Bounty” and it featured shrimp and crab marinated with garam masala, scented yellow squash puree, bacon-peach relish and Spanish basil oil. The kicker that impressed the judges - a dish he cooks regularly for the first family, lady peas. And on his way to the Big Easy, Chef Smith also stopped here in Mobile at Southern Fish and Oyster Co. my go-to-place for seafood, where he picked up the U-8 shrimp that really impressed the judges... Congrats Chef Smith.

Finally, here's my simple way to cook most all types of peas, fresh or frozen.

Lady Peas
Basic Stock for all Shelled Peas and Beans

A little smoke meat, like ham, hock or neck-bone
Garlic toe
Quartered sweet or white onion
Small bay leaf
Freshly ground black peppercorns

Depending on the type of peas or beans determines how much smoked meat to use. In the pot shown, I made stock for two vegetables - the Lady Peas here and large butter-beans. The lighter the peas, the less smoke flavoring is needed, in my opinion. Start out with 5 to 6 cups of water for about 4 cups of peas. Bring all above ingredients with the water to a boil and let simmer covered on low for a good hour. From here it is a matter of preference, sometimes I strain the stock and sometimes I just leave it be. But the next step I think is the most important.

1 heaping tablespoon bacon grease or butter
1/4 cup diced sweet or white onion
4 cups peas
Salt as needed

In a separate saucepan, saute the onion in the bacon grease until clear, add the peas and coat them in the grease. Barely cover the peas with the stock and bring to a simmer. I find the darker the peas, the more stock needed and longer cooking times. Add salt to taste. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until just tender; it will not take long at all for Lady Peas. Turn off heat and let peas set in the pot-likker to soak up the flavor.

Note: About 1 1/2 cups of strained stock was added to the Lady Peas while the rest, including the neck-bone, remained for the butter-beans.

22 comments :

  1. Anything with bacon grease is fabulous in my book, can just imagine the aroma in your kitchen when this is cooking um um good!

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  2. We southerners are peculiar about our peas. This looks like a bowl of goodness I could dive right into!

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  3. Sigh. Swoon. Yum.

    Congratulations to Chef Smith!

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  4. Mmmm...nothing like a good southern bean recipe! It looks amazing, and so satisfying!

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  5. I'm not from the south and I don't know how particular I am about peas(?) But, this bowl of peas look like something I would be very interested in enjoying! They sound wonderful;-)

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  6. I've never even heard of lady peas. How far south do they start growing? They're pretty much cooked the same way you'd start with a split pea soup, no? It looks fantastic and very much like something I want to try.

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  7. You're right, we are really persnickety about our peas. Butter beans, too. I think it's hard for people not raised in the South to get their heads around how many different types of peas we have. The dark ones (purple hulls, pink eyes, black eyes) and the green ones (white acres, cream 40's, lady peas, etc) One thing's for sure - I love them all! And I agree with you that lady peas are just a little different from white acres. The white acres have a tiny bit of mealiness that the lady peas don't. Give me a plate of lady peas, some sliced homegrown tomatoes and some hoe cake and I'm one happy little Southern girl :-)

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  8. Here's another thing I am going to have to try. I love coming over here and learning new things about my new home. Sounds fabulous.

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  9. Lady peas are about as Southern as you can get and I love how you've doctored them up! Yum, will be trying these when the first North wind blows! Another one for the "Drick" file! :)

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  10. OH NO... Now I am on a mission... I am guessing Kansas isn't far enough south

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  11. What a lovely name...Lady Peas!! Is there any Gentleman Pea?? :D It looks so healthy I can eat a big bowl. The most that I have tried is the green peas which I usually use in fried rice. I don't think I have seen this pea here. May be I have not looked hard enough. By the way, Congrats to Chef Smith for the win!

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  12. Hey Drick,

    Haven't tried the Lady Peas yet. Guess after 20+ years I ought to surprise the hubby with a pot of these!

    I have some google+ invites if your interested. email me and I'll send you an invite.

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  13. I was a little curious about the colour of the peas actually. Normally, it's green but these are white or milky colour. Looks more like kidney beans.
    Kristy

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  14. I love all fresh beans and lady peas are a favorite :) You have worked some great flavors here my friend!

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  15. Does anyone know where I can buy the lady pea seeds? We had them when I was growing up and loved them, but have lost the recipe and want to grow them again. Peggy

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  16. I bought some lady peas at my local farmer's market this morning, and I'm making a "mess" tonight for supper using your method. I love it. I love that it makes enough stock for me to freeze a couple batches for future meals.

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  17. I'd never heard of lady peas until browsing recipes in the current copy of Southern Living. I'm in Florida and we often see conch peas and they look quite a bit like these. So, my question is are lady peas & conch peas one and the same? BTW, conch peas are quite tasty but they have an extremely short season.

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    1. Hey Anony, I am no farmer, but it is my understanding that conch peas are in the cream pea family. Creams as well as Blackeyed and Crowder are of the Southern field pea varieties. Conch is probably a name given to cream peas planted in Florida similar to those planted in Texas called, yup, the Texas Cream pea.

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    2. Ok, I am reading this in 2015. If anyone happens upon this, last year I purchased 3 different heirloom seed types from Baker Creek's Rare Seeds. I purchased Running Conch, Bohemian, and Lady Peas. Around here, we just call them "little white peas". I wanted to see which was closest, because when we have family or church gatherings around here, I go back for dessert to the little white pea bowl! Anyway, I grew all 3 and they all looked and tasted equally as wonderful as what I was seeking. I hope that helps, for anyone looking to find or grow them. BTW, I was picking them when they were light green and realized I should have waited a little longer. They turn a bit lighter in color and grow a wee bit bigger. Either way, they were fabulous! NOT so easy to shell by hand when too young, so eat them slowly and savor the moments!

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    3. Leah, thanks for chiming in... as mentioned in the post above, I think lady peas are very good green but best when matured and turned creamy in coloration. And I must confess, I buy mine at farmers market already shelled so I dunno about doing these by hand, but I bet it would take a mess of 'em to make a pot!

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  18. I remember visiting my Grandma in Sheffield, AL in the 50's and 60's. The local grocery store, Liberty Super Market, sold canned Lady Peas. Sadly, Liberty is out of business. Many people confuse Lady Peas with other types of field peas; however, Lady Peas are unique. Mom Peters(my grandma)would cook them in a pot and serve them while still green with a vinegar concoction that had some kind of peppers steeping in the vinegar.I live in Michigan and would love to know how I can get them.
    John Rhoads

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    1. Oh, how I would love to get my hands on some southern peas!! It has been years since
      I've enjoyed those wonderful things.

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