Monday, January 3, 2011

221. Split Pea Soup, Soup to Love

Well-loved meals, like scalloped potatoes with ham (post #222), ham and eggs, ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches, fried ham with pancakes and split pea soup were expected to follow every ham we baked. My mother's split pea soup with ham was so wonderful - we usually ate it until we could eat no more. The taste soothed and comforted; it was almost like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold night.
My formula for total thick-soup enjoyment, like split pea,  is to eat it when the day is cold and the stomach is quite empty. It may be eaten with crackers or rolls, but the best companion is a freshly baked loaf of bread. We never ate this hearty soup delicately...we ate with gusto and we were not afraid to dunk our bread in it...peasant food and peasant-style eating just seem to go together!

There is nothing complicated about making split pea soup, but there is more to it than the regimented combining of ingredients. Soup is an expression of of cooking and love of family. Follow the directions, use the listed ingredients, wait for the right kind of day and surprise your family with a soup to love.

Note: Sometimes there is too much liquid in the pot because the ham bone has to be covered in the initial cooking process. If the finished soup is too thin, this liquid may be A. simmered off,  or B. the pot of finished soup may be refrigerated overnight...any fat skimmed off and the thin broth at the top spooned off and discarded. I prefer method B. as it also allows for the removal of any excess fat. If you choose A., and  simmer off the excess liquid, stir often and  be careful to not burn the bottom layer of soup.

Bread pictured below is Rustic White , post #228.

Mother's Split Pea Soup

1 package dried green split peas, do not use old peas
1 ham bone with some meat attached
3-4 ribs celery, chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped
4-5carrots, cleaned and cut up
4-5  potatoes, peeled and cut up in bite-sized chunks

Empty peas into a strainer, rinse and check for and remove any foreign matter. (For more than 30 years I have looked for and never found any foreign matter...but, this is what the package says to do so, I do it). There are at least two varieties of split peas sold in most and yellow. Their flavors are almost identical, but I like the look of the green ones.

Place rinsed peas in a large soup pot. Add ham bone and cover with water. Bring to a boil and skim off foam that rises to the top. Cover pot and remove from heat for one hour. Return pot to heat and add all the other ingredients; simmer soup partly covered for 3 hours. Remove bone and pull off meat. Discard bone and any fat. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces and add back to soup. Stir and simmer until broth is slightly thickened. Taste. You should not have to add any salt. Serves 10.

Note: Store leftover soup in the refrigerator. It is normal for this soup to thicken and become very dense as it chills.The soup will return to its normal consistency when reheated. Only add more water if reheated soup is still too thick. Split pea soup is even more wonderful the second day. If you need to freeze this soup, remove the cooked potatoes; thawed potatoes have a strange texture and flavor.

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