In the Fall, a not-so-young woman’s fancy turns to thoughts of…soup? Yes! And I decided that the ham bone that has been patiently waiting in my freezer over the summer needs to come out of hibernation. Now, the ham bone is what I consider to be the culinary equivalent of a nuclear warhead-its explosive flavor potential is bigger than its actual size. Sure, I could simmer up a pot of greens, but why not make a whole meal of it? For that, there’s nothing better than split pea soup. Here’s my recipe:
1 beautiful ham bone (any size)
1 bag of split peas (16 oz.), rinsed and picked through to remove any rocks or undesirables
7 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil (canola, olive)
2 carrots, diced
1 rib celery,diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt, more to taste
Heat oil in a large, thick-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, celery and 1 tsp. salt, and cook until just softened. Add garlic, cook for 2 more minutes. Add dry mustard and bay leaves, followed by chicken broth and split peas. Stir and bring just to a boil. Set heat to low, add ham bone, and cover and simmer for at least 3 hours, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed (you don’t want the peas that sink to the bottom to burn-yuck!). When the peas are mush and disintegrate when stirred, and the remaining meat falls off the ham bone, it’s done. Remove bone and strip remaining meat. Chop up meat and add to the soup (be sure to remove gristle and fatty bits). Season with salt and pepper to taste (I usually find the ham salts it enough on its own).
Note: You can also do this in a crock pot. Heat 6 cups of the chicken broth while you cook the aromatics, mustard, and bay leaves in a small pot over the stove. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth, to the pot and stir to make sure you get all the flavor goodness off the bottom. Add the pot mixture to the broth in the crock pot, then add the peas and ham bone. Simmer on “high” for at least 4 hours, all day “low”. The advantage here is that there are no worries about the bottom burning in the crock pot, or any real need to add liquid during cooking.
Serve hot with a good crusty bread-yum!