Mrs. Sell's Blog of Household Management

Recipe: split pea and ham soup

yellow split pea soupSee what I made?

No, it’s not queso dip; it’s split pea and ham soup — with yellow split peas! Isn’t that cool? I didn’t even know they existed until I saw them in the Mexican aisle at Wal-Mart.

I used them to make my regular split pea and ham soup, and it turned out great. Apparently the yellow peas can be a little milder than the green, although I don’t know that I really noticed a difference.

I base my recipe off of the Cook’s Illustrated version (paywall), although it is either simpler, or more complicated, depending on which way you look at it. Here’s just the text; maybe someday I’ll do one with pictures.

What you need:

  • about 2 Tablespoons bacon drippings
  • onion, chopped — about 1 onion should do you, although you can adjust for personal preference.
  • a couple three garlic cloves, minced (if desired)
  • 7 cups of ham stock (can substitute poultry stock) — homemade is best; I make a lot at a time, and keep it in the freezer
  • 1 bag of split peas, green or yellow, picked over — I rarely rinse or do anything else to them.
  • ham, chopped or diced or shredded — I just eyeball it; this is really personal preference. I used a whole ham steak this time, and it seemed like a lot to me, although if you like your split pea and ham to be more ham and less split pea, then knock yourself out.

What you do:

  1. Heat the bacon drippings in a large soup pot/Dutch oven over medium-low to medium heat; whatever temperature it takes on your stove to cook down some onions.
  2. Add onions and cook down, stirring occasionally, until desired flavor/consistency. I like my onions cooked way, WAY down, so mine are practically caramelized.
  3. When the onions are almost done, throw the garlic in and stir it around until it’s fragrant, but not browned.
  4. Here, it’s a little different depending on whether you’re using ham or poultry stock. If you’re using ham stock, then add the stock and peas, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until peas are at desired consistency (we like ours completely dissolved). Stir occasionally to keep the peas from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  5. If you’re using poultry stock, and the stock, peas, and ham, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. Then remove the ham and keep covered while the soup continues to cook, covered, until the peas are at desired consistency.
  6. Once the peas are done, either put the ham back in, or add it for the first time.

I like the Cook’s Illustrated version, but it was a little too complicated for me, so I usually simplify it — but by simplify, I mean I do some steps, way, way in advance.

In their recipe, they use 7 cups of water, then add in carrots, and celery, and bay leaves, and everything to actually make ham stock while the soup is cooking. I rarely have those things sitting around when I wanted split pea and ham soup, so I just make ham stock whenever I’ve cooked a bone-in ham (which I HIGHLY recommend — you’ll have frozen ham leftover for months, and it tastes SO much better than other ham).

So if you’re using poultry stock, you put the ham in originally to get some ham flavor in there, but if you’re using ham stock, you can wait until the end, since it’s already flavored.

The Cook’s Illustrated recipe also calls for two slices of bacon to be simmered in the soup, then removed later, and for the onion to be cooked down in butter in the initial step. I hate wasting bacon, so I get the bacon flavor in there by just using bacon drippings to brown the onion in the first place, and I don’t have to thaw out two strips of bacon just to toss them out later.

Also, because I’m using bacon drippings and pre-made stock, I don’t really season or salt this; there’s plenty of salt and flavor in it already.

Obviously, if you don’t have stock, and you don’t have a jar of bacon drippings in your fridge, then you can just follow their recipe, and it’ll be fine!

Split pea and ham is one of my favorite soups, especially for breakfasts on winter mornings. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it! And the yellow peas make it much, much less gross-looking than green peas.

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