It’s blizzarding and frigid outside here in Hoboken! Our mayor robo-called today to tell us that “street sweeping rules were not in effect during the winter storm but meters and parking rules were and that cars parked in snow evacuation routes would be towed and sidewalks are to be shoveled within 6 hours of the end of the storm but not to shovel the snow back into the street.” So, while blizzards always make me think of Pa eating all the Christmas candy in the snow cave when he got lost in a blizzard in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s On the Banks of Plum Creek out on the wild western prairie, Winter Storm Hercules is being managed with small-town New Jersey efficiency here. And I’m making soup.
I cooked this soup after Christmas as my in-laws during a visit when our nephew was about 2. He’s the one that said “Good job” to his grandmother when she made a pan of biscuits that particularly pleased him. He was such a fan of this soup that my mother-in-law decided to make more split pea soup for him a few weeks later. She called me laughing hysterically and asked for my recipe. She had put a bowl of soup on the high chair tray in front of our nephew and after one bite, he looked up at with the absolute crushed disappointment that only a toddler can muster and said “BLECH!” and refused to eat any more. She said “I’m not used to getting ‘blech’ comments on the food I cook!” So for what it’s worth, this soup is toddler-approved.
Split Pea Soup
serves about 8
1- 1 pound bag of split peas
2 meaty smoked ham hocks or 1 meaty ham bone
About 6 cups water
Oil (to sauté’ the vegetables)
1 large white onion, chopped
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced to about ¼ inch dice
2 medium turnips, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, simmer the ham in about 4 cups of water over very low heat until the meat is very soft and beginning to fall of the bones. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat and bones from the water. Allow the meat to cool and then remove from the bones, shred into small chunks, and set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables.
In another pot or sauté pan, heat enough oil to just lightly coat the bottom and sauté the vegetables in it just until they begin to steam and soften.
Add the split peas and vegetables to the ham stock. Bring to a low simmer and cover with a lid, allowing it to cook slowly until the peas are soft and the vegetables are beginning to melt into the soup, probably about 30 minutes, depending on the freshness of the peas. Add more water as needed to keep it from getting too dry or sticking to the bottom of the pot, but not so much that it is watery. Add the shredded ham back into the soup and allow it to heat through.
Since the ham broth will vary in saltiness, don’t salt until the end of cooking; you may need less than you think and it is easier to add salt than take away. Add black pepper to taste.
A couple of notes:
1. I am inexact about the amount of water because the amount needed varies so much. Start with the amount on the package of peas, or with the amount I suggest, but use your judgment about adding more; you don’t want it to be too dry and thick.
2. Cooking the pork slowly in the water first serves a couple of purposes. First, it infuses the water with flavor so that it really mixes into the beans and vegetables as the beans absorb water. Second, if you are using ham hock, shank, or any part of the leg with the bones and all, the connective tissue from the cartilage melts into the water, giving it a rich texture that makes the stock very tasty and silky, the same as using wings or feet for rich chicken stock.