Rinse and sort black-eyed peas. Place peas in a Dutch oven. Add chicken broth and (if necessary) enough water to cover the peas by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with a lid, and let the peas soak for 1 hour. Do not drain.
In a large cast iron skillet (or other heavy skillet), cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, reserving rendered fat in pan. Add onion to the drippings and cook over medium-high heat until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 more minute.
Transfer onion, garlic and drippings to the Dutch oven with the black-eyed peas and broth. Stir in bay leaves, thyme, and 1 additional cup of water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, and simmer (covered) until the peas are tender – about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add extra water to the pot, as necessary, to keep the peas moist (but not too soupy). By the end of the cooking time, the peas will have absorbed most of the liquid in the pot. Remove from heat, discard bay leaves, stir in vinegar and Creole seasoning. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
Garnish with crispy bacon and fresh herbs or sliced green onions. Serve with hot sauce on the side.