Grandma made the best split pea & ham soup, it was always delicious. One year (when she was in her early nineties), she gave each of the grandchildren a package of split peas and her recipe as a Christmas gift. It is still one of the most memorable gifts, and I’m so glad she did it!
There’s nothing difficult or exotic about this recipe, but it produces a great pot of soup. I think the secret is the ham bone and sautéing the vegetables before adding them, it gives the soup great depth of flavor. I’ve tried making the soup without using a ham bone, and I’ve been disappointed, so it’s important.
- 1 smoked picnic ham (about 2 1/2 lbs., bone-in)
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 lb split peas (rinsed and picked through)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions (chopped)
- 2 medium carrots (chopped)
- 2 medium celery stalks (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Pinch sugar
- 3 small potatoes (peeled and diced)
- Ground black pepper
- Put the ham, bay leaves, and 3 quarts water in a large pot, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the meat is tender and the ham pulls away from the bone (2 to 2 1/2 hours). Remove the ham and bone from the pot, and shred the ham into small pieces after it has cooled enough to handle. Discard any fat and the bone.
- While the ham is simmering, heat the oil in a large skillet, and add the onions, carrots, and celery. Saute' until the vegetables begin to brown, reduce heat, add the butter, and sugar. Cook the vegetables, stirring frequently, until they are browned (30 to 35 minutes).
- Add the split peas and thyme to the water in the pot. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer (uncovered), until the peas are tender (about 45 minutes).
- Add the sautéed vegetables, potatoes, and shredded ham to the pot with the split peas. Simmer until the potatoes are tender and the peas begin to dissolve and thicken the soup. Season with ground black pepper to taste.
- If a smoother consistency soup is desired, immersion blend for a few minutes to produce a creamier consistency (the picture of the finished soup above has been lightly immersion blended).
Serve with minced red onion and balsamic vinegar for garnish.