Friday, December 27, 2013

Split Pea and Ham Soup

A classic soup combining dried split peas and ham, with a mirepox of onion, carrots and celery, enhanced with a ham bone or ham hocks.
A classic soup combining dried split peas and ham, with a mirepox of onion, carrots and celery, enhanced with a ham bone or ham hocks.

Split Pea and Ham Soup

As much as I look forward to all those delectable holiday dishes that we wait all year to eat, I tire of it all pretty quick. By a day or two later, I usually start craving simple things like egg salad or grilled cheese and tomato soup, and anything that hasn't been consumed is destined for the freezer, where it will be re-purposed in another way, another day.

The turkey carcass is destined for a soup or gumbo, the turkey that survives beyond the sandwiches, gets used in casseroles or pasta dishes or goes to the freezer, and the ham bone becomes stock for soup or beans, or gets frozen for later.

This soup is a wonderful way to use that ham bone and some of that leftover ham you set aside. If you have the time, make a nice stock from the ham bone first, or, if you don't have a bone, a couple of meaty ham hocks will stand in nicely too. The base will give a boost in the smokey flavor of the soup, though it's not necessary to still have a mighty fine pot of soup using chicken stock or broth, or even if you use plain water with a little chicken base or bouillon.

The dried peas in split pea soup are cooked down until they mostly disintegrate, forming a thick soup. Lots of folks like to puree it from that point until the soup itself is completely smooth. Make sure you do that before adding in the meat from the ham hocks and the chopped ham. I don't bother because it breaks down enough for me, and I like the added texture from the peas that don't myself.

Here's how to make it.

I like to use Camellia dried peas for this. That probably doesn't surprise anyone, since it's my recommended and most favorite brand of dried beans and peas - reliable, trustworthy and delicious! Rinse and sort through the peas to pick out any debris or rocks that found their way in there.

Cook the bacon in a soup pot, until fat is rendered but not until it is crisp. To the bacon and drippings, add the chopped onion, celery and carrot; cook over medium until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic, cook another minute. Add the peas to the pot, along with the herbs.

Cook and stir another minute, then add the ham or chicken stock, Liquid Smoke, if using, ham hocks and bay leaf. You may substitute plain water if you prefer, but also stir in some bouillon or chicken base, like Better than Bouillon. I used 2 tablespoons. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered on very low for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Add the ham to the beans and low simmer for 30 minutes longer or until peas are tender and have broken down. Soup should be very thick. Remove bay leaf and discard. Add salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning; taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve with cornbread or corn muffins.

Posted by on December 27, 2013
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