Saturday, September 17, 2011

Split Pea and Ham Soup

Everyone in my family loves split pea soup, with or without ham. Each of us has favorite items we like in it, too. For me, it's barley. There has to be barley in it or it just isn't RIGHT. Others like carrots, or potatoes, and Gray just likes it thick enough to stand a spoon in. Regardless, it has to have lots of green and yellow split peas in it, and perhaps a handful of lovely dark orange lentils. It has to simmer all day on the back of the stove, a spicy, dusky scent that greets you every time you open the door to come in. When it's done, it has to be thick, hearty, and hot, with floating bits of carrot and onion. It's best served with a crusty bread, heavily slathered with fresh butter.

SPLIT PEA SOUP WITH HAM

* ham bone or pork broth
* a total of 14 cups of liquid, starting with the pork broth if you have it, and ending with the water
* cut up cooked ham (half inch cubes work best)
* 2 cloves of garlic, rough chopped
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 2 large or 3 medium carrots, coined
* 3 medium potatoes, diced (skin on, preferably)
* 1-2 cups split peas (your choice of color)
* 1/2 cup pearl barley
* 1/2 cup lentils (optional)
* spices to taste (I use salt, pepper, fresh parsley, and oregano

Put your broth on to heat, or put the ham bone into the water (or mixed liquid) and bring to a boil. If you are working from a bone, let it boil for a half hour and then take it out, and continue with the recipe. Add your ingredients to the broth (except the salt - do that at the end) and bring it back to a full boil, then put it down to a low simmer and allow your soup to simmer for at least two hours, but the longer the better. Serve with crusty bread or fresh baked soda bread!

Now, when I make this, I usually tweak it a little. You can add any root vegetable you like - potato, carrot, onion, garlic, jerusalem artichoke, even sweet potatoes, though that makes it too sweet for my personal taste. When hubby isn't eating it, I also add parsnip and cabbage (parsnip goes in with the other veggies, and the cabbage gets put in during the last half hour before serving). You might want to add more potato, or more lentils or split peas, depending on how thick you like your broth. Some people don't put any of the vegetables in until the last half hour, and before they do they puree the broth and meat into a kind of paste. I personally don't like it that smooth, but it's another option.

If you're serving this to friends you want to impress, reserve a sprig of parsley or any other fresh herb to put on top of the bowl, and add a tablespoon of cream over the top of the soup, in a pattern. It will sit on top and look very pretty, indeed! Admittedly, once you've made this a couple of times, they won't be looking at it - they'll be digging into it with great gusto. Trust me on this!

I made this today, for our dinner this evening. I didn't add much pepper because of the kids, and I cut my onions very big (we have one kid who doesn't like onions but is fine if she can pick them out). I didn't add parsnip or turnip because we didn't have any, and I added a bit extra in carrots and potatoes because we did have them and they're from a local organic farm.

The broth I used was the water I'd boiled the ham in two days ago when I made ham for our dinner. It wasn't a bone-in ham (though I have one in the freezer!), so I reserved the liquid for soup. You put it in the fridge for at least a day, and skim off any fat from the top before using it in this recipe. All our left-over ham went into the soup, along with our acquired veggies and a package of "split pea soup mix" of split peas (thank you Manischewitz!! check out the ingredient list on the split pea package that I just used!). I picked these up at the local "bump and dent" store for a dime each, and I use two packages for this recipe made with 14 cups of liquid. It's almost as easy to make with the regular split peas, but this had such a nice mix, and was so convenient and cheap. I couldn't have purchased the split peas for so inexpensive!

One of the wonderful things about this soup is its flexibility. Not only can you mix around the ingredients, if you find you've made too much (this rarely happens around here - my soup pot isn't big enough LOL) it is very simple to put into a plastic container and freeze it. When you want to cook it, dump the frozen chunk into a pot and heat on medium until it's defrosted and hot enough. You might need to loosen it up with a bit of water, as it tends to get thicker when frozen. Regardless, it's really yummy out of the freezer, too! When I have the big stock pot available, I sometimes make gallons of this soup and freeze it in "family size" containers (quart size freezer bags). It's a really quick dinner that everyone likes, and the more you make of it, the cheaper it is (true of almost all soups).

Bon appetite!
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