Place the ham hocks in a heavy 4 to 6 quart pot and add enough water to cover the meat by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered for 2 hours, or until the ham hocks are tender and show no resistance when pierced deeply with the point of a small skewer or sharp knife.
In a sieve or colander, wash the black-eyed peas under cold running water until the draining water is clear. Add the peas, onions, celery, chili and a few grindings of black pepper to the pot, mix well, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the peas are tender. Check the pot from time to time and add more boiling water if necessary. When the peas are fully cooked, they should have absorbed almost all of the pan liquid.
NOTE: The volatile oils in fresh hot chilies may burn your skin or make your eyes smart, so clean, stem and seed them under running water. Wear rubber gloves if you can and be careful not to touch your face or eyes.