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Growing up, I remember the smell of beans simmering in my Great-Grandmother's kitchen all day.  Pinto beans, navy beans, and who knows what else.  I was too much of a chicken to try the beans as a kid, but I can still smell them.  The earthy smell of the beans, the rich smell from the ham hock, so savory!  These scented memories evoke the thoughts of the archetypal Home in my mind.  I never gave thought to making my own beans until I was shopping for tea.  Makes perfect sense, right?  I buy loose leaf Darjeeling tea, and the only place I can find it is at the local Indian groceries.  Every time I go to buy tea, I shop down every isle to look at all of the interesting foods and I'll usually pick up something new to try.  The last time I was there, I looked at all the beans and found a bag of black eyed peas that were the tiniest beans I'd ever seen.  So I bought them because they were cute.  ... Don't judge!  :-)  But then I had a bag of beans that I had no idea what to do with.  Mom never made them that I can remember, and neither had I, so I was flying blind.  I started where I always start when I want to make something new.  I search the Internet.  I look at all of the recipes I can find, identify the commonalities and then either pick the recipe that sounds the best or combine what I think are the best bits from several recipes to make my own.  I didn't want to soak the beans overnight and then simmer for hours, and thankfully I was able to find several recipes for slow cookers that used the dry beans (no soaking!).

Black-Eyed Peas
Ingredients
2 pounds dried black-eyed peas
6 cups chicken stock (low sodium)
6 cups water
3 cubes vegetable boullion
3 cubes chicken boullion
2 tsp Season All
1 pound cooked ham/ham steak, diced
1 pound bacon
1/2 cup butter
2 large onions, diced
Salt and pepper to taste

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Directions
1. Pick through the black-eyed peas to remove any foreign objects, stones, or generally sad looking beans.  The beans will be fairly uniform in appearance, so finding things to pick out is typically easy.  The second picture on the left is what I pulled out of my beans.  I also pull out any beans that aren't the right color or look splochy or wrinkly.

2. Add the beans, chicken stock, boullion, Season All, and diced ham to a 6 quart crock pot set on Low.

3. Cut the bacon into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces and add to a large frying pan to brown, stirring frequently.  When the bacon is crispy, remove the bacon from the frying pan with a slotted spoon and add to the crock pot.  Reserve the bacon grease in the frying pan for the next step.

4. Add the butter to the bacon grease in the frying pan and melt.  Once the butter is melted, add the diced onions and cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent.  Stir frequently.

5. Add the onions and the grease to the crock pot.  Stir to incorporate.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours, stirring about once an hour.

Immediately after cooking, I thought these beans were only OK.  They still had an earthy flavor which faded as time went on.  They magically taste better the longer they sit in the fridge, and by the end of the week I was going bonkers over how good they were!

The black-eyed peas are great served as a side to chicken and corn bread.  I also had them with burgers for a cook out and even heaped a spoon full of the beans onto my burger.  It was delicious!


Left Overs!
While these beans are perfectly delicious reheated either in the microwave or in a pan on the stove, I still wanted another way to use these delicious beans.

Black-Eyed Burgers
Ingredients
3 cups drained black-eyed peas
3 Tbsp all purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package potato buns

Directions
1. Mash the black-eyed peas in a bowl with a fork or potato masher. 
2. Add the flour, and stir in with a fork to thoroughly incorporate.
3. Form patties that are about three inches wide and 1/3 inch thick.
4. In a large frying pan, add oil (or butter or bacon grease) and heat the oil until it forms dimples in the surface.  This shows the oil is heated to the proper temperature for pan-frying.
5. Add the patties to the hot oil and cook 3-5 minutes on each side until nicely browned.
6. Serve on potato buns.  I added a little mayo and cooked bacon to my sandwich.

This recipe lends itself to a lot of variations.  If you're feeling spicy, you can finely dice and sauté up some jalapenos and put them in the bean mixture.  You could add sautéed onions or bell peppers as well.  Crumbled up bacon would do well in the "burgers" too.  We found these "burgers" to be incredibly filling and outstandingly delicious.  We both wanted to eat a second "burger" but we were so stuffed from the first one we just couldn't!

Also, I have some vegetarian friends, but I sadly cannot think of an equally delicious vegetarian version of this dish.  There is really no substitute for the bacon and ham as these are very big flavoring componants of the dish.  That being said, if you have a vegetarian version of black-eyed peas that you love, please share it!

 


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