Split Pea Soup with Ham
My fondest memories of split pea soup were as a kid growing up. My dad would take Sunday’s fresh ham bone and any leftovers and make the best split pea soup I can remember. I have been asking him for years for the recipe but he tells me it is different every time. He cooks with “what’s on hand” just like I do now.
I picked up a smoked ham hock at Stoltzfus Meats at the Ardmore Farmers Market. These guys have the freshest and tastiest pork in the area. They also have fresh hocks that I could use for this soup but I purchase them for my pork osso buco. The smoke (cured) hocks give you that little bit of smokey flavor, but they also add a lot of salt to the recipe so you have to adjust for it.
In fact, the first time I made this split pea soup with a smoked ham hocks, I used all chicken stock and no water. It turned out to be a mistake because between the chicken stock and the ham hock, the soup was way too salty. It would have been better if I used all water or a combination of water and chicken stock as I do in this recipe.
There are lots of variations when making split pea soup. You can substitute lentils or some other form of legumes for the split peas, add other vegetables like eggplant or squash, spice it up with curry or make it creamy. I have even seen recipes for split pea soup made from a lamb bone that looked interesting.
This recipe is for a basic split pea soup made with a smoked ham hock. It was adapted from several recipes I found in my cookbook collection but mostly from The New Basics Cookbook, one of my first cookbooks and still one of my favorites. When in doubt, I always go back to this book for help.
1 pound dried green split peas - be sure to remove any stones and give the split peas a good rinse in your strainer. You don't have to soak the peas like you do with many other varieties.
2 smoked ham hocks (or 2 fresh ham hocks or 1 leftover meaty ham bone)
5 cups of water
5 cups of chicken stock
2 ribs celery - diced
2 sprigs of fresh parsley - chopped fine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion - chopped fine
2 carrots - chopped fine
1 leek (white part of the leak only) - sliced - be sure to was the leek well after it is sliced. There is often a lot of grit between the leaves. I use my salad spinner for this job.
1 clove garlic - minced
1 cup of spinach leaves - slivered
Salt & pepper - to taste
How To Prepare At Home
Heat up the water and chicken stock in a large soup pot or stockpot. Add the split peas and bring to a boil.
Add the ham hocks, half the parsley, the fresh thyme and celery. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes with the cover just partially on. Be sure to give it a stir every 10 or 15 minutes.
Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat and add the onion, leek, garlic and carrots. Sauté until the vegetables are soft and add them to the pot. Add the spinach and simmer for 30 minutes, again partially covered.
Turn off the heat and remove the ham hocks. Using a small paring knife, remove the meat from the hocks being sure to trim off and discard any really fatty pieces. Cut the meat up into pieces and return to the pot.
Taste and adjust seasoning with salt & pepper. Add the rest of the parsley and serve.
The New Basics Cookbook also uses 2 tablespoons of dry Sherry with this recipe. Although I think it would be a great addition, I was serving this to my kids and I didn't think they would appreciate the flavor so I left it out. You could bring some sherry to the table for anyone who might be interested in adding it him or herself. My 10-year-old daughter loved this soup by the way. Without the sherry of course!
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