Shelling Peas during a Hurricane

Field Peas, That Is

I was once scheduled to take the now former Editor of the New York Times fly fishing, but his condo on the Gulf coast got hit by a hurricane, and he had to go and board up the windows instead. He actually is a great writer–a Pulitzer prize winner, in fact,– despite the fact that he had to survive the Alabama educational system. But so did I.

We live in the mountains, where we love a good hurricane. We get the rain during the driest part of the year, and hardly ever get any of the wind. In fact, our last four inches of rain came from tropical systems.

Hurricane Sally stayed around for so long that I thought she was one of my in-laws. Hurricane Delta got out of here like a dog with it’s tail on fire. But Delta gave us some really needed rain.

Here’s how fast it moved. I looked at the radar before I fed my chickens, and there was nothing there. I get to their pen, and it starts raining. I get back to the house, and our entire county is covered with rain.

However, nothing can stop MJ and myself from going to the Festhalle Farmer’s Market, not even a hurricane. An older gent there had the latest season field peas that I have ever seen. We bought 1/8 of a Bushel from him, and I spent the rest of the rainy day shelling peas.

Time for another trip to Nerdlandia. A “Market Basket” back in the old days was a standard of dry measure, and this guy had an authentic wooden market basket. That was 1/2 of a Peck, and four Pecks equals one Bushel. File that in the appropriate file.

Now for the backstory. My Aunt June ran the only real restaurant in our community, and she insisted on fresh ingredients. We began selling her field peas, and she sold them as fast as we could grow them. Then my father had the idea that we should sell to every restaurant in the area. So we planted fifteen acres of peas one summer.

The problem: Cooks want shelled peas. I spent a summer developing advanced pea shelling technigues. A sharp thumbnail helps, but there are ways around that.

Just rip the end off the pea. Then there is the thumb bulldozer approach, where your off hand thumb plows out the peas, while your dominant hand yanks on the shell. A really ripe pea gets the zipper approach, where you just pull the shell apart.

A really green pea? Just feed it to the chickens.

Box of Maters, Precious

Get Out the Canner

We hit the quinella today at the Festhalle market, as we got this box of maters for $25, and a basket of pink eye purple hull peas for $8. Now we have to either can or freeze the surplus, which will be just about all of it.

The result will be this–pints of maters.

An Army of Maters

We have thirteen pints already, and we will easily double that, and then some. I will undertake canning four quarts as well, which will mean I will have to drag our massive old pressure cooker out of the basement. It’s more than worth the trouble.

The basic method that MJ taught me is to pour boiling water on the tomatoes, peel the skins off, sterilize the jars also with said water, and then put the packed jars into a boiling water bath. We have determined that a longer hot water bath is much preferable to a shorter one.

That’s a lot of Peeling

So another Sunday is to be spent in the kitchen. I forgot that I also have corn to boil and freeze. At least we won’t go hungry this winter, or buy produce from who knows where.

Summer’s First Vegetable Soup

Let’s Eat!

We jumped ahead of schedule, or maybe just jumped the shark, making this soup, as we had to work with a bunch of non-ordinary ingredient sources. In about a couple of more weeks, we will be able to make this with all fresh local ingredients. But sometimes you just can’t wait.

Ingredients

Chicken Stock

Crowder Peas

3 Ears of Fresh Corn

A small Onion

Butter Beans

Large can of Tomatoes

Salt and Pepper

Half of our ingredients were local, but the rest were scrounged for. We did have stock made from a locally grown chicken, which is unusual. The corn was fresh from the Festhalle, and the butter beans were from there as well, but they were hiding in the dim reaches of our freezer. The okra was really excellent and fresh, again from the Festhalle market. Here’s where we go worldwide.

Crowder peas are not yet in season, and hard to find fresh anyway, so we used dried peas from the famous Camellia brand from New Orleans. New Orleans folks consume as many Fagioli (beans) as Tuscany, and this brand controlled 95% of the market. They are that good. Cook these first.

The onion was an organic onion from California, and the big can of tomatoes was organic as well, but they were San Marzanos from Italy. I just happened to have some cans of them in my pantry.

MJ and I enjoyed this with some fresh corn muffins, made with McEwen cornmeal.The leftover soup will be frozen for the winter. The left over muffins were devoured by our chickens.

Pink Eye Purple Hull Peas

Still More to Shell

Carolus Linnaeus was a great benefactor of mankind, who invented the system of binomial nomenclature of plants and animals. Now we know that Vigna unguiculata is not the same as green peas, though they share a common name. This particular pea was brought to the Americas by enslaved Africans, whose cultivation of it caught the eyes of the slaveholders. Cowpeas, as they are also known, were described by Thomas Jefferson in 1798 as a veg that “is very productive [and an] excellent food for man and beast.” 

This is a simple veg to cook, though it is starchy and takes some time. Water, salt, and some good seasoning meat, are all that is needed. This particular variety is the most popular, though the other varieties of cowpeas are remarkably different in taste and texture. If you see any cowpea for sale, buy them in bulk and freeze them, as frozen cowpeas are almost as good as fresh ones.