Merry Christmas! Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus!

How was your Christmas? Ours has gone well, though we spent much of Christmas Eve in the kitchen cooking.

Our Christmas meal consisted of pelēkie zirņi ar sīpoliem un speķi (grey peas with bacon and onions), speķa rauši (Latvian bacon and onion rolls), a spiral-sliced ham, šķovēti kāposti (braised sauerkraut), apple cobbler and mulled wine. (Mmm.. mulling spices + inexpensive merlot.. Wonderful.)

On Wednesday, I told you that we’d been waiting all year for one special dish.

Pelēkie zirņi (Grey Peas)

These, my friend, are pelēkie zirņi. Grey peas. This is also the last of our supply we brought with us from Latvia and, unfortunately, will be the last until we go back.

I don’t know why we don’t have these in the States. You’d think we would, since we’re supposedly this huge melting pot of immigrants and grey peas, which are eaten by people all across Europe from England to Russia, should be here too. (Although apparently the French only advocate eating these as a “famine food.”)

Instead, I find …nothing. My dad-in-law found that the scientific name for them is Pisum arvense L., which seem to be sold only as seed to produce deer food in the States and not, as far as I can tell, for human consumption. I haven’t quite decided whether or not it’s safe to buy seeds — they sometimes are sprayed with fertilizers and other nasties, so that wouldn’t be good eats. Another name for them seems to be Austrian Winter Peas, but I haven’t found anything more than seed-sites for those either.

Ordinarily, I’d simply ask family to ship us some, but currently, Latvijas Pasts is giving my mom-in-law issues over sending plant matter. If Latvijas Pasts is having issues, I somehow think that US Customs probably wouldn’t appreciate it much either., the only importer I’ve found, isn’t selling grey peas this year, unusually. There may be some prohibition I’m unaware of at the moment since they usually sell them every year. (Though you should check them out, they have a lot of nifty stuff for sale from the Baltics, including bread subscriptions from Lāči, the primo bakery in Rīga.)

Pelēkie zirņi (Grey Peas)

So, this is the last of our wonderful, wonderful peas. We hoarded them all year so we could have them again for Christmas, as is traditional. Last year, we made a bacon sauce with flour and heavy cream, but this year, we went with something simpler. When we go back to Latvia, we will definitely be bringing a few kilos back with us!

If you know of any importer or shop in either the US or Canada that sells grey peas, please let me know!

Pelēkie zirņi ar sīpoliem un speķi

Pelēkie zirņi ar sīpoliem un speķi

Grey Peas with Bacon and Onions (Latvian-style) [printable recipe]

Serves 2

  • 1 cup dried grey peas
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 lb bacon ends, finely diced (50/50 fat to meat)
  • salt and pepper

Soak peas overnight in lots of water. Drain, rinse and pick over for stones. Pour into a pot and cover with plenty of water. Salt water liberally. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 2 hours or so, until peas are tender with a bit of bite (al dente).

When peas are nearly done, fry up onion and bacon together with some salt and pepper (to taste) until everything is nicely browned. Spoon bacon and onions over a bowl of peas, mix in and enjoy.

This entry was posted in dairy-free, gluten-free, holidays, latvian, pork, side, untranslated, vegetable. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Merry Christmas! Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus!

  1. Rob says:

    I fell in love with grey peas & bacon while I was doing research in Latvia and scoured the internet for sources here in the US. There’s a bean/pea farm in Idaho that sells “monk peas” on their website. The peas are pretty darned close to the Latvian version – or at least as close as you’re going to find in the States. Here’s the URL:

  2. Ellinelle says:

    ..hello there ..
    ..I love ‘ pelekie zirni ar speki ‘ and I had the same problem here in the UK , I just couldn’t find them for the first year , but then I discovered that British have tradition with grey peas as well , they have’ bonfire night ‘ in november so supermarkets sell grey peas : ) happy happy me : ) so I always get a lot , and it’s great because it’s just before Christmas ..but those peas are slightly smaller then Latvian version ..British boil them and add vinegar to the water , it’s ok but I love ‘our’ version much better + glass of kefirs : )

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  4. Alice R. says:

    I don’t know if you’re still looking for an answer for grey peas. I’m Dutch, my husband Latvian. I have been eating grey peas all of my life, he had never heard of them until he met me, figure that one out as we are both immigrants from our countries. Anyway, I have been able to purchase grey peas in the U.S. for as long as I can remember. They are available at the Dutch import store here, Vanderveen’s in Grand Rapids, Michigan and also at many of our local grocery stores. If you need help, let me know and I can send more information. My husband now loves these peas as much as I do!!

    • Cori Rozentāle says:

      Really? My area doesn’t have a lot of Dutch immigrants that I know of, but I’ll see whether I can find a store that also carries Dutch imports. What are they usually called?

  5. Aggie Lane says:

    I live in The West Midlands in the UK. Grey peas is a traditional meal for us and we can buy the peas everywhere. They come under many names though Carlin Peas, Maple Peas, Pigeon Peas, Black Badgers, Parched Peas, Black Peas, & Carling Peas. Perhaps if you tried looking for them under any of those names you may have a bit more luck finding them, Good luck :)

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