Up until a few years ago I was skeptical about split pea soup. I didn’t dislike it … I just didn’t like it very much. Then a friend of mine encouraged me to try it again and so I made it. And I tweaked my recipe and made it again. And again. And now it’s one of my favorite fall soups; when the weather turns gray and rainy and cold, I think of split pea soup for dinner.
Not to mention that it makes a great lunch to take to work the next day – warm and filling and healthy!
Start with ham – any ham, but I usually use the last bits of ham from a holiday spiral sliced ham. Cut off about 8-9 oz of it … making sure to get lots of the fatty bits. Dice it up into 1/2″ pieces and put into a large pot (I use my 3.5 qt dutch oven) over low heat. Let it cook for 30 mins or so .. mostly what you’re after here is rendering the fat down.
While the ham and fat are cooking, chop a medium yellow onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic. When you can see the fat from the ham in the bottom of the pot, add the onion and garlic and cook until it’s translucent and tender.
While the onion and garlic are cooking, rinse your split peas under cold running water and pick out any hard bits or stones that you might find. (Most bags of split peas are pretty clean, but every now and then you’ll get a bit of stone or something that should be cleaned out!)
Add the split peas to your pot and stir well to coat the peas with the onion/ham/garlic flavor. Give it 2 or 3 minutes. Finally, add your stock. I have used everything from ham stock to turkey stock .. but if you don’t have anything homemade, a basic low-sodium chicken stock will work just fine. About 4 cups of stock for 2-3 cups of split peas is good.
Bring the pot to a boil, then lower to a simmer. After an hour or so, you might have to add another 1-2 cups of water to keep the level of liquid above the peas. After about 2 hours, you’ll get a thick, creamy soup where the split peas have cooked through. I tend to let mine simmer for another hour before taking it off the heat. Be sure the soup doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot!
Serve this soup with a dollop of sour cream (or greek yogurt as I have here) or with some grated parmesan cheese. Don’t forget the crusty bread to go with it!