I buy field peas in bulk in the summer. Ladys, creamers, zippers, whippoorwill, crowders, purple hulls, you name it. Farmers market Saturdays for me are about canning and putting up, followed by a Southern supper of field peas, corn and tomatoes. So I am always looking for creative ways to prepare them. This is my new favorite. It’s clean and summery with a good dose of the best of the seasons herbs.
It can be a little hard sometimes when writing recipes to quantify herbs. Particularly for a recipe like this. So I just say handfuls. You want the potlikker the peas cook in well flavored, and the finishing butter to be chockfull, so the peas are well coated with fresh green herbs. Choose whatever herbs you have to hand. I love a good blend of leafy basil and parsley with a little hint of mint, combined with onion-y chives and woodsy oregano. I love the flavor pork adds to field peas, but you can leave it out to make a vegetarian version of this dish.
- 1 pound purple hull or other field peas
- 6 cloves garlic
- 2 generous handfuls of fresh herb leaves – basil, mint, oregano, chives, parsley and thyme
- 3 strips bacon
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- salt and pepper
- Place the peas in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to settle for 30 minutes, then scoop off any floaters. Pick out any bruised peas, then lift the peas out of the water into a saucepan using your hands. Don’t pour through a strainer, the dirt only gets on the peas again.
- Pick out a good handful of herbs and tie them together in a piece of cheesecloth. Nestle the herb bundle, the bacon and 4 cloves of garlic in the peas and add fresh water to just barely cover. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam or scum that rises. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer the peas, uncovered, for about 1 hour until soft and tender but still holding their shape.
- While the peas are cooking, finely chop another handful of herbs and place in a bowl with the softened butter. Put the remaining two cloves of garlic through a press or very finely chop them and add to the butter. Use a fork to mash the herbs, garlic and butter together. Add salt and pepper to taste and combine thoroughly.
- When the peas are cooked, strain through a strainer and discard the bacon, garlic cloves and herb bundle. Scrape the herb butter into the saucepan over low heat until it begins to melt. Return the peas to the saucepan and gently stir through the butter until the peas are coated. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve.