Hearty Split Pea Soup

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As you may have seen on my meal plan, I made Split Pea Soup (and Irish Soda Bread) on Monday. It was Martin Luther King Day, so I didn’t have to work, and we had just been buried in a heap of snow, so it was the perfect day for a long-simmering soup. I made it the way my mom used to, with a few additions of my own, and thought I’d share.

Don’t worry – it’s a long recipe, but it’s not hard and it’s definitely delicious.

If you want the short version, scroll down to the end of the this post. 🙂

WARNING: This recipe takes 2 1/2 hours MINIMUM and can take up to 4 1/2 depending on what stock you have available. A lot of that is hands-off time, and I had plenty of time to make my bread, do all the dishes, and clean my bathroom while the soup was simmering…but be prepared!

A bowl full of hearty, split pea soup.
I don’t think split pea soup can be photographed in an appetizing way, but I assure you that this dark green sludge-y soup with ham bits and vegetables is AMAZING. You can see some half-eaten bread chunks behind it….my husband tore into that way too fast for me to get a picture of the pretty, round loaf!

Ingredients

  • 3 slices bacon
  • Ham hocks (~ 3 pounds). You can also use a bone-in ham or leftover bone-in ham.
  • 8 cups homemade chicken stock. You can also use water, but will need to cook it longer. I wouldn’t use store-bought chicken stock because I think the soup might be too salty. I don’t add salt to my homemade stock until I make my soup. You could try it with low-sodium chicken stock IF you ham is uncured/unsalted.
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 cups dried peas, picked over and rinsed
  • ~2 tsp dried thyme, or to taste
  • 3 carrots, chopped medium
  • 3 medium or 2 large onions, chopped medium
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped medium
  • 3 medium red potatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch sugar
  • Salt? I use unsalted stock and uncured ham hocks, so I added about 1 tbsp salt in total. If you use cured/smoked ham or ham hocks, or store-bought broth, you probably won’t need to add salt.
  • Pepper, to taste (I used about 2 tsp. We like things peppery).

Procedure

  1. Fry bacon in a large Dutch Oven. Remove, and drain on a paper towel lined plate. When cool, crumble into bacon bits.
  2. Brown ham hocks on all sides in bacon grease, over medium heat. Since I was using uncured ham hocks, I salted and peppered them before browning.
  3. Add chicken stock & bay leaves. Simmer for 1-3 hours. Note that if you use water, you should simmer for the full 3 hours to develop a flavorful pork stock. By using chicken broth, you can lessen that time and still have flavor. I simmered my soup for 1 1/2 hours, and got a delicious pork taste along with my chicken stock taste.
  4. Remove the ham hocks and set aside to cool
  5. Add peas and simmer, uncovered, 45 minutes, until soft but not quite dissolved.
  6. MEANWHILE: Saute carrots, onions, and celery in butter (or oil, or grease) over medium-low heat. Cook them for 30-40 minutes, stirring regularly, until caramelized. They should start to look and smell delicious. Don’t skimp on the caramelizing step – this adds a LOT of flavor to the soup.
  7. MEANWHILE: In between stirring the veggies, go ahead and shred the ham. Remove the bones and chunks of fat, as well as any rind or non-meaty bits. Optional: Reserve these scraps – you can make another ham-stock out of them before you discard them.
  8. When the veggies are good and caramelized, and the peas are about done, add the garlic and sugar to the veggies and cook over medium heat about 30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant
  9. Dump the veggies, potatoes, shredded meat, and half the bacon into the pot with the peas. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to med-low and simmer for 20-30 minutes until potatoes are tender and peas are dissolving.
  10. OPTIONAL: Puree some of the soup with immersion blender, if you have one. This makes it thicker and less chunky – the more you puree it, the thicker it gets. I like to puree about 1/3 of the soup. With an immersion blender, that only takes a few seconds.
  11. Garnish with remaining bacon bits, and serve. This soup goes particularly well with warm, crusty bread.

I hope you enjoy this wonderful soup recipe!

 

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