EDITED TO ADD: Please don’t tell my Southern relatives, PARTICULARLY my Gamma and Papa Jack (which would be extremely difficult since they have both gone to their great reward), but I got my “maternal” and “paternal” mixed up. Gamma and Papa Jack are my MATERNAL grandmother and grandfather. They were BIG on family history and family tree (the whole “roots and wings” thing), and would be mortified that their highly and expensively educated granddaughter got something like that mixed up.
The Lifesavers Mission continues. The insomnia continues. The infernal heat continues. I still miss My Boy.
Now that we’ve covered literally everything that has been going on in my life since last time we spoke, I figured I’d tell you about the last thing I cooked (literally) that didn’t come from a bag and contain the instructions “add two tablespoons of water and cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave for 5 minutes”. I miss cooking.
Summertime to me means fresh peas, and fresh sliced tomatoes. For dinner. Or lunch. Or anytime really. The summer is short, so it’s important to get all of it in you can. (I know, I know, spring peas…but we’re talking about field peas, black-eyed peas, purple-hull peas, and cream peas…and those don’t happen until the summer.) My Papa Jack (paternal grandfather) knew everybody in the town. This sounds more impressive than it actually is-the town is tiny. He was the funeral director, EVERYBODY was going to cross his path at some time or another. 🙂 As it was a small town in south Georgia, there was a LOT of agriculture, and plenty of people with large gardens next to what used to be their farmland but is now owned by some large agricultural conglomerate. (“Was”? I’m sorry, former English teachers, apparently your brilliance was pearls before swine.)
Tonight’s aside: Pepperidge Farm Mint Brussels Cookies? HOW HAVE I MISSED THESE FOR SO LONG???? 33 years of my life have passed, and frankly, I feel cheated. I’m going to spend some quality time with these babies. (Nope, not endorsed or paid by the Pepperidge Farm people at all. They accidentally jumped into my cart at Tom Thumb the other night.)
So-gardens, etc. As anybody who has ever planted five acres of varied vegetables and fruit will tell you, eventually, those plants grow and bear their fruit (or veg, whatev) and then, since you live in a small town and all your neighbors have their own five acre gardens, you have to DO SOMETHING with said fruit and veg. So those that live in town and don’t have giant gardens make out like bandits. And people knew that my Papa Jack would never turn down an offer of veg or fruit. So every summer, I spent shelling peas or snapping pole beans into an old milk pan on the back porch of my grandparents’ house. I can still feel it, smell it, and see it. My hands especially. Purple hull peas? Called that for a reason.
Anyway, the other day, I picked up some (thank you, God) pre-shelled purple hulls from a little farm stand out near the ranch and cooked them. I’ll tell you how I fix peas, but, as I’ve stated before, please experiment!!!!! I didn’t take photos along the way because really, it’s too simple.
So you start out by chopping an onion very finely (that’s because I don’t like big chunks of onion-if you do, chop as finely or coarsely as you like). Put a tiny bit of olive oil in your pot, throw the onions in. Start sauteeing. Next, to keep it healthy, I put half a pack of bacon in my peas. (NOT that “bacon” product that is for vegetarians…gross!) (And I’m not sure how I feel about turkey bacon. Except I know my feelings are not warm and fuzzy.) (If you feel led, you can use center-cut bacon, to keep it a tiny bit healthy.) Put the bacon in with the onion (that’s why just a little olive oil, b/c the bacon will also contribute deliciousness…) and sautee (or, really, if you want to get technical, we’re not doing a sautee here, we’re sweating the stuff…but that’s an advanced term) them around for a little while. You don’t want browning, you want the bacon to render a bit, and the onions to get a little bit soft.
After that, throw the peas (that you have rinsed and picked over for rocks and what my Gamma-paternal grandmother-would call “stung” peas…which means the withered ones or the ones that some insect-type creature has obviously gotten to first) into the pot and put plenty of water in there. You do not steam summer peas. You boil them, in lots of water. Peas take a LOT of water, so be prepared to add more after the initial starts to boil off. If you are anti-bacon, don’t tell me, and then this would be where you would use broth of some sort to contribute flavor instead of the water. Vegetable broth for you veg types, and I’ve used beef broth (just once, for a friend who keeps quasi-kosher) with some degree of success. Be careful if doing this. Peas really do take a lot of water, so if you were to use broth for all of the water you’ll need, you’d end up with some salty peas. So, switch out.
After the peas have had a chance to cook for awhile (half an hour if you have the cranky stove I do that does either extremely-low simmer or strong rolling boil-nothing in between. Longer if you have a stove that will do a “medium”.) then you taste for seasoning. It is important to wait to salt the peas until this stage, because salting them too early causes tough peas (beans, too). So, taste for seasoning, salt and pepper as needed. And here’s where you can get fancy, or not, as you please. I enjoy a good sprinkling of the green tabasco sauce on my beans at this stage. Or, you can wait…and then after the beans are done cooking (they will be very tender…only you can decide how “juicy” you like your beans. If you like a soupier bean, more water then….if not, then less…), first you take out the bacon (it’ll be soggy and gross by then, and we’re done extracting the flavor by then) and then you can sprinkle on some either malt vinegar or some pepper vinegar. The vinegar is important-it gives the peas a bite that otherwise they might not have. My mama would tell you that everything needs a sprinkle of sugar, I’ve never used a sprinkle of sugar in my peas, so, you be the judge. And here’s a picture of the end product, boiling away on my state-of-the-art-stove.
Be sure to serve with plenty of sliced tomatoes with salt (regular table salt, not that fancy stuff!)-