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.