Black-eyed peas have been part of the Southern diet for more than 300 years. The pea (or bean) is a legume, a subspecies of the cowpea. The peas get their name from the black spot. The purple hull pea is another popular variety of black-eyed pea. The purple hull pea is light green with a pink or light purple spot. Many people prefer the taste of purple hull peas, but they aren't as readily available. Purple hull peas can be found fresh in the South when in season, and are found frozen in some areas.
If you're lucky enough to have black-eyed peas or purple hull peas growing in your garden or can find them at a local Southern farmers market, you can quickly freeze fresh or cooked peas to enjoy year-round.
How to Freeze Fresh Black-Eyed Peas
- Choose shelled fresh black-eyed peas, either homegrown or locally grown.
- Rinse the peas in a colander under cold running water.
- Place a large bowl of ice water on the countertop.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Drop the peas into the boiling water, bring back to the boil (about 2 minutes) and cook for 2 minutes.
- Drain the peas in a colander and then immediately transfer them to the ice water to stop the cooking.
- Spread the peas out in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and transfer to the freezer. Freeze the peas for about 45 minutes.
- Pack the frozen peas into freezer containers with about 1/2-inch of headspace or pack them into heavy-duty freezer bags. Label with name and date, and store in the freezer for up to 9 months.
- One pound of shelled peas will yield about 1 pint frozen.
Plain Cooked Black-Eyed Peas
In a saucepan with about 1 inch of water, bring 1 pound of black-eyed peas to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Season as desired or use in a recipe.
Seasoned Southern-Style Black-Eyed Peas
For seasoned black-eyed peas, fry about 4 ounces of bacon or salt pork in a saucepan over medium heat until fat renders. Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chopped onion and some finely chopped jalapeno pepper (optional), and cook until the onion is translucent. Put the peas in the pan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the peas are tender. Add a little ground cayenne pepper, if desired, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
How to Freeze Fully Cooked Black-Eyed Peas
- Put the fresh shelled black-eyed peas in a large saucepan or stockpot.
- Cover with water and place over high heat. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Drain the peas in a colander then immediately transfer them to the ice water to stop the cooking.
- Freeze as for fresh peas on a rimmed baking sheet or pack into freezer containers or bags.
- Label the bags with name and date and freeze for up to 9 months.
- One pound of cooked peas will yield about 1 pint frozen.
- Thaw them or briefly steam until softened and use in recipes calling for canned or cooked black-eyed peas.
Note: Most dishes made with black-eyed peas, such as Hoppin' John or Spicy Black-Eyed Peas With Tomatoes, freeze beautifully. Pack the mixture in a freezer bag or container, label, and freeze for up to 6 months.