The key to good southern peas and beans is not to season with salt while you are cooking down the peas and beans ..they are soaking up anything in the water.. All I ever season with until they are soft is season meat ( bacon, ham hock, whatever your preference ) and the veggies of choice.. primarily onion..
Add peas to a large pot. Cover with water and soak over night. YES, OVERNIGHT ! The quick soak method just does not bring as good of a result :)
Drain and rinse your peas. Add 2 tablespoons of bacon grease to your pot and on low - medium melt it down. Using scissors cut the bacon into 1 1/2" pieces and add them to the pot. Fry the bacon until it starts to brown. Scrape loose bits from bottom of pan and add your onions in. Stir and cook until begins to soften .
Add your rinsed peas to the pan, and your ham hocks. You can add them whole, or cut the meat off the bone. I usually leave the meat on one and cut up the other.
Add water to cover. *note* a widely made mistake is using TOO MUCH WATER. Good peas are not soupy, but fall apart and combine to thicken. It's better to add less to start as you can always add more liquid to the peas if needed. Mix all well, and bring to a boil. Once boiling,cover and reduce heat to a gentle but constant simmer. Stir as needed over an approximately 2-3 hour period.
When your peas are beginning to fall apart and the meat is cooked and falling apart, this is the time to season your peas to taste. I add about 3-4 tablespoons of ham base, and black pepper. Cook about another 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and combine. Remove the bone from the ham hock and add meat back to the pot. Serve over hot rice and add a dash of sport pepper sauce to your peas to serve. Happy New Year !