Place the ham hock, quartered yellow onion, bay leaf, water and scant amount of kosher salt in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for at least 30 minutes, to pull all of the flavor out of the ham hock and season the water.
Remove the ham hock from the water and set aside. Remove the large onion pieces and discard.
Add the diced onion, diced carrot and minced garlic to the pot and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the fresh black eyed peas to the liquid and simmer for approximately 35-40 minutes, until the black eyed peas are ¾ done. (*If using dried peas, the cook time will increase to 45-50 minutes. *If the mixture becomes to dry, the amount of water can be increased.)
Remove all of the meat from the ham hock and shred into small pieces.
When the black eyed peas are ¾ done, add the ham hock pieces to the pot and season the liquid with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
Continue to simmer the black eyed peas until they are completely cooked through and the liquid has thickened slightly.
Season as needed and serve immediately.
Smokey black eyed peas are best when cooked the day before, cooled completely and refrigerated overnight. Reheat the next day until hot all the way through for the best flavor.