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Hearty Ham & Split Pea Soup with Potatoes

January 31, 2011

This soup is perfect for a snowy wintry day.  It’s thick, rich and flavorful, and it reminds me of the soup my mom used to make when I was little.  However, and unlike I remember my mom’s soup, this soup looks absolutely disgusting when it’s cold.  A funky layer of ham weirdness forms on top like a jello, but you just have to stir it in and pretend it was never there.  And now that I’ve probably convinced you not to make this soup, I’ll shut up.  I just had to let you know, though, so that you wouldn’t be as unsettled as I was.  Really, it’s true.

The recipe calls for a small picnic ham (if anyone knows what a picnic ham is, please enlighten me.  I can’t imagine anyone taking a whole ham to a picnic, so I doubt that’s it.) but the store didn’t have any small picnic hams; it just had half picnic hams.  So we purchased a half picnic ham, which, interestingly, was about 3 pounds bigger than a “small” picnic ham,  knowing that we could use the additional meat for other yummy creations.  Making this soup turned out to be an all-day affair:  I spent like an hour cutting meat off the ham to get it to the right size, and then it had to boil for about 2 hours.  Then there was shredding the ham, cooking the split peas, cooking the other veggies, and then cooking it all together.  The end result was definitely worth the effort, though, and it’s something that you can easily cook while you’re doing other things (like streaming Netflix onto your  tv and watching entire seasons of really bad programs.  Come on, I know I’m not the only one!) My friend Ricel informed me that this soup would have taken a lot less time if I had a pressure cooker. Now I’m thinking that sometime in the near future I will have to buy one, risk of explosions be damned.  Besides, if you buy a high-quality pressure cooker, it’s less likely to explode.  Right?

This is one of those fantastic soups that is a meal-in-a-bowl, almost like a stew.  It didn’t last long in our house, and I’ll make another pot the next time it snows (which, by the look of things, could be tomorrow).  I’ll also try to figure out this “picnic ham” issue, which I find genuinely vexing.

Hearty Ham and Split Pea Soup with Potatoes

From Cook’s Illustrated

1 smoked bone-in picnic ham (about 2 1/2 pounds)
4 bay leaves
1 pound split peas (2 1/2 cups), rinsed and picked through
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions , chopped medium
2 medium carrots , chopped medium
2 medium stalks celery , chopped medium
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium cloves garlic , minced
pinch granulated sugar
3 small new potatoes , scrubbed and cut into medium dice
Ground black pepper

Bring 3 quarts water, ham, and bay leaves to boil, covered, over medium-high heat in large soup kettle. Reduce heat to low and simmer until meat is tender and pulls away from bone, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove ham meat and bone from broth; add split peas and thyme and simmer until peas are tender but not dissolved, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, when ham is cool enough to handle, shred meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Discard rind and bone.

While ham is simmering, heat oil in large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrots, and celery; sauté, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low; add butter, garlic, and sugar. Cook vegetables, stirring frequently, until deeply browned, 30 to 35 minutes; set aside.

Add sautéed vegetables, potatoes, and shredded ham to soup; simmer until potatoes are tender and peas dissolve and thicken soup to the consistency of light cream, about 20 minutes more. Season with ground black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with red onion, if using, and serve, passing balsamic vinegar separately.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. matt permalink
    March 16, 2011 4:50 pm

    I’d imagine that a picnic ham would be one of those chunks of already cooked hams that you can get at many stores like safeway, etc.

  2. Stacey Latour permalink
    December 8, 2013 4:39 pm

    I like your recipe especially because it’s nice and thick which I love. From my own experience, pea soup is made to finish off leftover ham from maybe a boiled dinner ( which you can use some of the broth from even the veggies if there’s enough. The bone is used because it’s what’s left with some meat which as leftovers seems to give just the right amount of meat for the soup. No matter what, it’s always Yummy! thanks for the recipe.

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