Man, I don’t know about where you are, but it’s frigid here. It’s time to break out the soup pot, and I can’t think of anything better than split pea soup. The color isn’t all that appealing, but this is simple comfort food at it’s best. While this is not a southern dish, if sure feels like it to me.
Our Northern Settlers
Split pea soup came to America with immigrants to New England, and is quite common in Canada. The Chinese cultivated these peas around 2000 B.C. The Greeks and Romans ate them, and this soup is also popular in Europe. German split pea soup is usually served with a nice piece of Pumpernickel bread.
Ham Soup Stock
If you are feeling adventurous, you can make ham stock for this recipe. Throw some vegetables and a couple of ham bones into a pot of water. Simmer it for a couple hours, and then strain it. Now you have ham stock. For this rendition I have chosen vegetable stock. I think it gives the soup a cleaner flavor. Another option is to use chicken stock, but to me, that complicates the dish. Chicken stock adds another flavor dimension that really doesn’t fit.
Smooth vs. Crunchy Split Pea Soup
It’s kind of like peanut butter. Some people like it crunchy, and others prefer it to be smooth. If you want the soup with a little more texture, finish it by just re-adding the ham. If you would like it to be smoother you will need to puree it before putting the ham back. I strongly recommend using an immersion blender to do this (boat motor, as Emeril calls it). You can also use a blender or food processor, but this can be dangerous. The steam from hot liquid can cause an explosion in a blender. Only fill the blender 1/3 full at a time, and please be careful. I’m assuming the same reaction could occur in a food processor.
Benefits of this Split Pea Soup
I’ll give you one huge benefit. It tastes amazing! This soup is also high in fiber, calcium and potassium. Supposedly it can aid in weight loss, as one cup has about 180 calories. What I like the most is that this dish is a hearty winter soup that is easy to make. You could add some jalapenos or bacon and crab meat to jazz it up. Garnish the soup with some sour cream and chopped chives. This rich and satisfying split pea soup with ham will leave you warm and full on the coldest of winter days.
Split Pea with Ham Soup
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Large Carrots, Diced
- 1 Stalk Celery, Diced
- 3/4 Cup Onion, Diced
- 1 Pound Split Peas
- 2 Ham Hocks
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme Leaves
- 1 Large Bay Leaf
- 3/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
- 8 Cups Vegetable or Ham Stock
- 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper, Freshly Ground
- Salt to Taste
- In a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery and onion. Saute for several minutes until the vegetables are soft, but not browned.
- Rinse an sort through the peas to remove any broken pieces.
- Add all remaining ingredients to the dutch oven, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer (medium low), and cook, uncovered for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- The peas should have broken down, and the soup will be quite thick. If it is too thick add a little more stock. Remove the ham hocks, and bay leaf. Discard the bay leaf, and let the ham hocks cool.
- Remove the meat from the ham bones. If you like the soup the way its, add the cut ham back to the soup. If you would like it to be less chunky you can puree the soup. This can be done by hand with a potato masher or using a blender or food processor (see earlier note). Then add the ham back to the soup.
- Re-heat the soup with the ham added, and season to taste with salt. Garnish and serve.