Black-Eyed Peas With Smoked Pork Jowls

Reader Contribution by Kurt Jacobson
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Black-eyed pea soup with corn bread.

I’d never had smoked pork jowl until I’d ordered what I thought was pork hocks from Third Way Farm, a local Maryland farm, and got jowl instead. I didn’t realize my mistake in ordering until I unpacked the box of mixed pork cuts to put in my freezer.

A funny, flat-looking piece of meat didn’t look like anything I’d ever had. When I read the label, it clearly said Smoked Pork Jowl, not pork hocks!

Upon re-reading the list of goods the farmer had emailed me I saw that all along the item was indeed pork jowl. Note to self; next time wear reading glasses when ordering. Not to worry I thought, let’s just give this jowl a try.

I had learned way back in my professional cooking days that smoked pork hocks made good beans even better. Smoked pork hocks are good for split pea soup, black eye peas, great northern beans, navy beans, and other beans. From the look of the smoked pork jowl, its flatter and lager surface meant it probably had absorbed more smoke flavor than hocks and would work well with some black eye peas I had on hand.

After thawing the jowl overnight in the fridge, I proceeded to make black eye peas the next day. Filling my Le Cruset pot with water, I added chopped onion, minced garlic, salt, and brought it up to a simmer like my boss on the USCG Cutter Redwood had taught me back in 1976.

Once it was simmering, I put the whole pork jowl-about a pound and a half, into the water and added about two cups of dried black eye peas. As it was simmering nicely, I went about my household work for the morning.

Within an hour, the whole first floor of my home smelled like a down south, country kitchen making me hungry well before lunchtime. Since I’d soaked the dried black eye peas overnight, the cooking process was finished in less than two hours. I pulled the pork jowl out of the water to cool before dissecting it to see which parts should go back in the pot or to my dog.

I cut the jowl in half and saw before me the skin layer, a three quarters inch fat layer, and a light brown layer of I-don’t-know –what, and lastly, a bit of dark meat. After cutting out most of the fat I cut a bite-size piece of the light brown part and popped it into my mouth, The meat was super soft and delicious! I tried the dark looking meat that must be the inside of the jowl and it was much like the outside part of a pork roast.

The dark meat and the light brown meat was cut into smallish bite-sized pieces and returned to the pot. I sampled a lunch-sized portion of the peas and thought the depth of the smoky flavor was about the best I’d ever had in black eye peas. I was glad I’d bought two of the smoked pork jowls and decided to save the second jowl for subsequent recipe practice.

The following recipe can be used with smoked pork jowls or ham hocks, since many of you won’t have easy access to pork jowls. In its simplest form, all that’s required for this dish is water, smoked jowl, onion, garlic, and salt. Adding chopped carrots, celery, or whatever soup veggie you have on hand is encouraged. I recommend trying this recipe in its basic form first, then on subsequent efforts try adding some or all of the ingredients mentioned above.

On my second and third effort, I found that about one-half pound of the pork jowl was enough to impart the yummy smoke flavor, but going whole hog and using the entire one and a half pound jowl was pure smoky heaven in a pot.

Smoked Pork Jowl Black-Eyed Peas Recipe

Serves 4 to 6


  •  2 cups black-eyed peas
  • One smoked pork jowl, about a pound and a half
  • 2 quarts of water, more or less
  • 1 ½ cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper-black, white, or jalapeño powder
  • 1 cup chopped celery- optional
  • One cup chopped carrots- optional
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper- I used jalapeno powder or ground white pepper


1. To speed things up, soak peas or beans in about two cups water overnight.

2. Add water to a pot big enough to hold the whole mess of peas and pork. Add salt, onions, garlic, and if using, carrots and celery.

3. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Add pepper, smoked pork jowl, peas or beans. Return to a boil then reduce heat to maintain a simmer.

5. Skim the top of the soup to remove scum.

6. Cook for 1 ½ to 3 hours or until peas or beans are soft and most of the liquid has cooked off.

7. Remove pork jowl from the pot, leaving the heat on the lowest setting.

8. After the jowl has cooled, carefully trim away fat and skin.

9. Cut up the good parts, note that some will want to put the skin in the soup, and add back to the pot and correct salt and pepper.

10. Bring it back to a simmer for serving time.

Note: Cornbread goes well with this recipe so plan on baking some or buying it ahead of time if needed.

I’ve made this with as little as eight ounces of smoked pork jowl and it turned out well. Double the amount of pork jowl and you double the good smoky flavor and get more tasty bites of pork.

Kurt Jacobsohas been a chef for 40 years and, after being schooled in the U.S. Coast Guard, he trained in many restaurants under both kind and maniac chefs. Kurt is starting his eighth year of container and raised-bed organic gardening  For tasty travel ideas check out Kurt’s travel blog, Read all of Kurt’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

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