For a few fleeting weeks during the summer, you'll find beautiful crowder peas at your local farmers' market. Slow down and shell a bunch of them – you'll love how relaxing this recipe can be to prepare!
Crowder peas, black-eyed peas, purple hull beans ... they're all in the same category of tiny beans all crowded up in their pods. If you're lucky enough to find them fresh at a farmers' market, buy a big bag of them and try cooking them fresh! Simply prepared, they will taste SO much better than dried beans. Even after just 20-30 minutes of boiling, they'll be tender and creamy – worlds apart from anything you can get in a can.
For this recipe, I used a mixture of purple hull beans and November beans to show you two different types of fresh beans available in my area. Look for plump, full pods, and don't just be lazy and buy big handfuls of them. You'd be surprised at how many scraggly, immature beans you end up with if you don't sort through them.
Take them home and shell them by hand. This is truly one of summer's slow-down moments. Shelled beans can be blanched and frozen for later if you buy a big batch of them.
1/2 cup diced ham or the shredded meat from 1 smoked turkey leg
4 cups of water
2 cups of shelled fresh crowder peas, black-eyed peas or November beans
In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, start your dish by making your base. Simmer the ham or smoked turkey in the water for 5 minutes. Season liberally with salt, pepper, garlic powder – whatever you'd like to make it a savory broth. Add the fresh shelled crowder peas and cook over medium for 20-30 minutes. You may get some foam at the top of the pot; just skim that off.
Check after 20 minutes to see if the peas are done. They should be tender, but not mushy. Make sure you not to overcook them. Remove from the heat and strain off the broth, reserving about a cup to keep the dish moist. You can freeze the broth for making soup later.
- You can easily make this a vegan dish by omitting the ham or turkey and starting off with vegetable stock. Sauteed onions go very well with crowder peas so you could start with some of those as well.
- The meat you use to season this dish is up to you. Classic pairings are a few slices of salt pork (you have to boil that a LONG time first though, to get it tender), chopped ham or turkey, or even bacon. Simply prepare your broth using the bacon grease and water then crumble the bacon on top of the finished dish. Sublime!
- This is technically a side dish but you can add more meat or some veggies to make it more of a light meal. I would only add onions or carrots, as you don't want to take away from the unique, earthy taste of the crowder peas.
**All of the photos in this article are by Sarina Petrocelly.
Do you love fresh beans or crowder peas in the summer? How do you make them? Let us know in the comments!