This is how you know you made a good split pea soup–if you let it cool, it forms a big clump on your spoon.
I know I’ve probably written on split pea soup before, but I just love the stuff–so home(l)y and humble and warming and good. It’s also one of those foods that my parents ate and I was disgusted by as a kid. And it’s easy to see why–it’s very thick and a very unattractive color. It smells kind of funky, too.
But I’d baked a ham with rice sometime last early week, and I’d finally gotten down to a chunk of meat and bone perfect for simmering with the split peas. I throw in a few bay leaves as well, and I cook it all down on the stovetop (adding more water if necessary) until it’s one great smooth mass.
(Crockpots don’t seem to break the peas down very well, so I don’t usually use them for split pea soups and dals.)
While the peas are simmering with the hambone (which, for vegetarians, is totally optional), I use a separate frying pan to saute onions, carrots, celery (if I have it–this time it was dried celery tossed in with the peas), and some crushed-and-chopped garlic, thyme, and hot red pepper ’til the veggies start to lightly brown and stick to the pan.
A little red wine helps to deglaze the stuck veggies bits as well as adding a nice flavor to the finished soup.
Once the split peas are melted into one great green mass, I scrape the veggie/herb/wine mix into the pot with them and simmer the whole thing together a little longer–salting and peppering to taste. I take the ham bone out at that point and pull any clinging bits of meat off to add back to the soup.
By the way, I bought organic carrots from Bonnie’s Hometown Grocery in Clinton, MN. She has also started carrying Organic Valley milk. Bonnie was pleasantly surprised to discover that the organic carrots she ordered don’t cost any more than conventional. How ’bout that?
Starting in the 2011 season we should be able get some local carrots in Bonnie’s, but this is a nice stopgap while we build up production and storage capacity in the area. Organic carrots are so superior-tasting to the conventional ones–I swear I can taste the petrochemical fertilizer in a raw conventional carrot. Blech!
The rest of the soup ingredients came from my gardens/H’s farms (ham, onions, red pepper, garlic), the Granary Coop (dried celery, split peas, and butter), Vermillion liquor store (California red table wine), and Penzey’s Spices (bay leaves, thyme, and black pepper).