Growing up in North East Texas, my Mother knew several truck farmers that grew different kinds of peas in the summer. During pea season, my sisters and I would gather in the living room with paper bags for the shells and big bowls for the peas and shell peas as we watched soap operas (yes, I use to watch soap operas (whisper) and while we sat with fans blowing on us. It's funny, back then we didn't have air conditioning and we didn't seem to be bothered by the hot summers as much as we do today. Wonder why? I remember, we even would go and get in a circle under our big tree in the backyard sometimes too and shell peas. Oh the memories of those days. By the time a bushel or two were shelled, Mother would have the first pot of Lady Cream Peas (Sometimes called Zipper Cream Peas) already cooked and waiting for us to eat with some Hot Water Cornbread to go with them, and maybe a slice or two of homegrown tomatoes and onion. We often put Chow Chow relish on our peas. It is cabbage based and is kind of sweet and sour. Good but hard to find unless you know someone who cans their own.
Although I was raised on peas here in Texas, I am finding out that there are folks out there who really do not know what a cream pea is. In fact, I have heard that some people only know these peas as feed for cows, not to mention they do not have any clue as how to cook them. You might say that Cream Peas, Purple Hull Peas, and Black Eyed Peas, etc. are a Southern cuisine that has been missed out on and needs to be exposed. You can find these peas fresh at most of the Farmer's Markete here in Texas and now they are available at your local Walmart Stores in the frozen section.
My Mother's recipe is so simple, and is utterly delicious, and you can make them in no time. She lets the peas speak for themselves, but you will want to make some delicious cornbread to sop up all that flavorful liquid that runs off the peas. You can find the recipe for my Mother's Delicious Hot Water Cornbread here.
Fresh Lady Cream Peas
3-4 cups fresh cream peas, rinsed and clean
6 slices salt pork, diced
enough water to cover peas 1"
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
In a large dutch oven, add the peas, salt pork, and water. Cook on medium high heat for 1 to 2 hours or until peas are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.