So, there I was, home from the Cabot Farmer’s Market last Saturday with a whole heap of beautiful purple-hull peas, and only one known recipe for cooking them: Hoppin’ John. I got online, and in short order found myself at the website of the Emerson, Arkansas Purple-Hull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race. It was there that I was introduced to the idea of making jelly from the hulls of these distinctly Southern field peas, and further searching turned up many, many recipes for just such a concoction. I was intrigued by this statement on one recipe site:
“Purple hull peas produce grape flavored jelly. White crowder peas produce honey flavored jelly. Lady peas make apple jelly; and by combining the hulls of crowder, purple, whippoorwill and lady peas a plum tasting jelly results.”
Well, that was a challenge I simply couldn’t pass up. I had to find out if I could, indeed, make “grape” jelly with humble purple-hull peas. The recipe I adapted from a few sources follows. The verdict? There is definitely a “grapey” flavor. Not deep and intense as if from actual grapes…more subtle. But when my husband came in after I’d cooked the jelly, I had him tastes some. “It’s good!” he said. I asked him what flavor he thought it was. He looked around the kitchen for visual clues, and not finding any, guessed, “Grape?” Success!
After shelling purple-hull peas, save the hulls, and wash them at least three times.
Pack clean hulls into a heavy pot, and cover with about 5 cups of water.
Boil hulls until tender. It’s not the hulls you’re concerned with–it’s the purplish “tea” that you’re making of the boiling water. Steep those babies until the water’s pretty and purple.
Strain the “tea” from boiling the hulls, and pour 4 cups of it back into the saucepan.
Bring juice to a boil, then add 1 package of Sure-Jell (fruit pectin). Return liquid to a rolling boil, and add 5 cups of sugar.
Return liquid to a rolling boil again, and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Skim. Pour into hot, sterilized jars, seal, and process in a water-bath for 5 minutes. Set jars aside on a towel for 24 hours.