Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Smoked Pig

A friend asked why I was making soup on a summer's day. This city is freezing me slowly with sweet salt breezes, is why. In any case, porky bean soup makes a nice meal for the winter, or late fall when the collard greens aren't snowed over yet, or a foggy day in July. The fellow behind the deli case didn't know what a ham hock was. I wiped a little honeysuckle tear from my firefly eyes and found a smoked shank for myself.

Also on the menu (for a successful Week Three of house meals at the TenderNob Flat): PadrĂ³n peppers, cornbread, and collard greens. I like my cornbread with cooked grits, and I liked my grits gritty -- not those little globules of cornstarch you find in the diner, but the whole-corn variety, more like polenta. I simmer the grits while the beans simmer.

Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Soak 2 cups black-eyed peas in a large bowlful of water overnight. Early in the afternoon, drain the peas and put them in a large pot with more than twice their volume of water. Bring to a simmer. While they simmer, chop and add an onion or two, a carrot, a stalk of celery and some leaves, a pint of canned tomatoes*, and a quarter-cup of honey.

When the beans have softened a bit, add a smoked bony chunk of pork, whatever part of the pig it might be, and a small palmful of salt. I often divide my chunk into two pieces and freeze the other half for later use. It really doesn't take much for a savory hamminess to creep into the beans.

Then keep simmering. By 7:00 the beans ought to be nice and velvety-soft, the meat fallen from the bone, and the tomatoes a reddish mush. Add water as necessary. Pull out the meat, chop, and throw back in the soup. Serve it up, nice and hot.

*I believe in canned tomatoes. Even boughten ones, if you don't have your own. They're usually picked and packed in season wherever they're from -- making them higher quality than expensive out-of-season tomatoes. They're condensed and sturdy, so they require less space when shipped, and needn't be refrigerated during the process, reducing oil use and emissions all around. But better yet, can your own when they're in season.


Anonymous said...

Your defense of canned tomatoes seems like it could apply equally to any canned vegetable, but I'm not sure you meant this. Please enlighten us.

Rosanna said...

Many vegetables lose nutritional value when they're cooked. The phytonutrients and enzymes die at high temperatures, much less the extended high temperatures required for canning. But tomato antioxidants (lycopene), actually become more bioavailable when cooked for long periods of time.

dressedinburgundy said...

I believe in canned tomatoes too.

Hungry Passport said...

Many thanks for the black-eyed pea soup recipe! I still have a hunk of smoked pig in my fridge from the last trip home to Tennessee (I live in Los Angeles and stuff my suitcase with porkly goodies every time I'm back home). We'll be having this soup for supper tomorrow night, for sure.

As for the canned tomato issue, they're really one of the better canned foods (along with tuna). Chefs can't achieve consistency of flavor in their dishes if they rely on fresh tomatoes, which may not be in season, may be of differing varieties, depending on season or geography, or may taste like the floor of the hothouse in which they were grown. Canned tomatoes allow you to produce good results consistently.

Thanks again! Cheers! Carol

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