and the answer is . . . not necessary to soak. At all. We always have black eyed peas in one form or another on New Years, family tradition. Usually I soak the peas overnight, as my father-in-law taught me to do, and rub off the skins in the morning, again per FIL. What usually resulted for me was falling apart peas and a cloudy, grayish stock.
Without soaking, this year the peas were perfection. Not "black eyed peas" in the traditional southern sense of a plate of beans, my peas were in the form of pea soup.
I picked over the peas, rinsed them with hot water then with cold, and left to drain while I prepared the rest of the soup ingredients: two chopped onions, five ribs of diced celery hearts, three smallish diced carrots, three minced cloves of garlic, one butt-end of pancetta the deli threw in for free and diced, and the remains of a honey-baked mini-ham we had for Christmas dinner, diced. (There was hardly any bone, to my disappointment!).
After rendering the pancetta and sweating the I added the ham, beans, a few peppercorns, three bay leaves, three sprigs of parsley, and ten cups of water. Brought all to a boil for three minutes, then turned to a low simmer.
After an hour, the peas were done. At which time, (about mid-day) spouse said to me, "The peas are for DINNER, right?" Uh, oh.
But...I left them extremely low simmer all afternoon, and they retained their shape. The peas were still perfect. Perfect with no soak after one hour, and perfect with no soak six hours later. And my broth was clear, not cloudy with grayish pea residue. Maybe I just got lucky with fresher dried peas, but I shall never soak black eyed peas again. (And the soup tasted terrific.)
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