Split Pea Soup

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

There’s something about winter that just begs for the making of split pea soup, wouldn’t you agree? Like the proverbial groundhog, who failing to see his shadow, retreats into the comfort of his burrow, in the chilly, foggy dampness of what is Sacramento winter, I stick my head out the door, only to make a quick retreat back into the house, wanting nothing more than to make a big pot of this hearty soup. Made with dried “split” peas, and cooked up with flavorful, smokey ham hocks, split pea soup is warm, satisfying, and great for leftovers.

Split Pea Soup Recipe

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 2 quarts. Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (2 1/4 cups) green split peas
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, halved
  • 1 herb bouquet*
  • 2 well-rinsed ham hocks
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Optional garnish - small toasted croutons (avoid for gluten-free version)**, chopped parsley or chives

*Herb Bouquet: Tie 3 cloves garlic, 4 allspice berries, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon thyme, 8 sprigs parsley in rinsed cheesecloth or place in bouquet garni muslin bag.

**To make toasted croutons, take 2 or 3 slices of day-old French or Italian loaf bread, cut into cubes. Let dry out a bit (can put in 200 degree oven for 10 minutes to help dry). Melt a tablespoon or two of butter on medium high heat in a large skillet. When hot, add the bread cubes, spread out in a single layer. Let toast on one side and then turn to other sides. Add more butter if necessary. Alternatively you can toss the cubed bread with olive oil and let toast in a 350°F oven until lightly browned.

Method

1 Pick over the peas and remove any stones. Wash and drain peas. Place in a 4 quart pan with the vegetables, herb bouquet, ham hocks and 2 1/2 quarts of water. Bring to a simmer. Skim the scum off the top of the soup for several minutes, until the scum ceases to rise. Cover loosely and simmer about 1 1/2 hours, or until peas are tender, stirring occasionally in case they stick to the bottom of the pan.

2 Remove the ham hocks and herb bouquet from the soup. Purée the soup with a blender. An immersion blender works great for this; if you are using a regular blender, take care to workin batches and only fill the blender halfway if the soup is still hot, and hold down the lid while blending. If you want an exceptionally smooth soup, pass the purée through a sieve.

3 Return the purée to the pot and heat to serve. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into warm bowls and garnish with croutons and parsley or chives.

If you want, don't discard the ham hocks, but cut away the outer skin and remove the meat from the bones. Dice the meat and serve with the soup.

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This split pea soup recipe is adapted from one written by Julia Child years ago for a Parade Magazine article. It's a shortened version of the split pea soup recipe in her book, The Way to Cook. In that book, Julia uses a slightly different method. She first prepares the ham hock stock, with onions, carrots, celery, and an herb bouquet. After simmering the ham hock in 3 quarts of water for three to four hours, she strains the stock. In a separate pan she sautés chopped onion, celery, carrots, and turnips or rutabaga in butter. She then blends in a few tablespoons of flour, cooking for a few minutes, before slowly adding the ham stock. She then adds the split peas and lets cook for 45 minutes. Everything else is the same (skimming, puréeing, etc.)

Split Pea Soup

Showing 4 of 56 Comments

  • DB

    I doubled the recipe and doubled all the ingredients except the ham hock (I used two) and only used 4.5 quarts of chicken stock (instead of 5 quarts of water). I also pulled the ham hocks out when it was done cooking, shredded the meat, and added it back to the soup. DIVINE! Based on another comment here, I made beer bread to go with it and it was SO GOOD dipped into the soup. YUM! Thanks for this wonderful recipe!

  • Vanessa

    I made this last night for Halloween, and it came out delicious. I used chicken stock in place of water, and I put in fresh herbs – parsley, thyme and rosemary – finely chopped, instead of the bouquet garni. It tasted wonderful. I also garnished with some lemon juice at the very end and it gave it an extra little zing. Lovely recipe, and as it was my first time ever making split pea soup, I have to thank you for posting it!

  • Jackie

    I always love your recipes Elise! How fitting is it that Julia Child’s recipe from Parade Magazine has always been MY recipe for Split Pea Soup? This is a great recipe. If you have trouble with the peas cooking in a reasonable time you can also pre-soak them for a few hours. I know, you shouldn’t have to, but living in the Denver area and having very hard water, I find it much easier to soak them in filtered water.

  • Andre

    I used the pressure cooker to cook the split peas. After getting the water to boil I put the peas in and turned down the heat to a simmer for about three min’s and then let them sit for an hour and dumped them in with the ham bone for another hour.

  • Becca B.

    It’s fall again so, soups on! I made this fantastic split pea soup but did not use the cheesecloth. I included turmeric, cumin, basil, thyme, ginger, white pepper and lime! The juice of two limes really brought all of the flavors together in an amazingly well rounded way. I used chicken stock instead of water. I will make this again!

    Next time I may consider making it even more interesting with MORE turmeric, cumin, maybe some curry and I’ll make coconut rice to give it an Asian feel?

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