1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until a bit of onion sizzles at once. Add the onions and cook until they are fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ham hocks and garlic, turn the heat to medium, and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring often so the onions soften and wilt without much browning.
Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes more. Add the stock, black-eyed peas, and 3 cups water. Increase the heat to bring everything to a boil, and stir well. Add the salt and pepper and adjust the heat to maintain a lively simmer.
Cover partially and cook, stirring now and then, until the peas are tender, about 2 hours. Remove the ham hocks and set them out on a plate until they are cool enough to handle. Remove the meat, chop it finely, and return it to the pot. Stir well. Serve the stew hot or warm.
Reprinted with permission from Southern Soups & Stews: More Than 75 Recipes from Burgoo and Gumbo to Etouffée and Fricassee by Nancie McDermott, copyright (c) 2015. Published by Chronicle Books.