Sunday, October 4, 2015

Keeping the Damp Out - Homemade Split Pea Soup

Last weekend, after a veritable drought this summer, my son was supposed to have his 6th birthday party outside at a putt putt park. We had a the first real rain we'd had since early July. And it was a cold, windy, rain-coming-sideways rain that eased up at times, but fell in absolute sheets moments later. Fiddlesticks.

One day of a break between that system and the next. And we got hit so hard with the second system that flooding became an issue. So much so that after school activities were cancelled several times, and we got out of school early on Friday. 

This second system was to blow through just as Hurricane Joaquin was then supposed to hit. Joaquin has not turned out to be the beast initially expected, but we're still recovering from floods and the skies have not cleared. It's dank, gloomy, and the perfect day for a bowl of soup.

Growing up, my Mother used to make split pea soup on a regular basis. As a child, I hated it. Something about the texture just turned my stomach. Or maybe it was because she blended everything and it had only one texture - I'm not entirely sure. But as an adult, I tried it again and fell in love with it. Thankfully, my husband enjoys it as much as I do. 

My recipe is very easy - it can effectively be made with nothing more than the peas, carrots, and ham. However, I also add onion, garlic, and basil. I use plain water, not stock, as the salt in the ham is usually enough to flavor the soup, and any added salt can make it too salty. It is very healthy and filling, too.

Homemade Split Pea Soup
Start with a bag of dried peas. Slowly pour the bag into your hand, allowing the loose peas to slide through your fingers, keeping watch for stones or clumps of dirt. The peas are sorted in the warehouses, but it never fails that the time I think I don't need to look through the peas are the times I later find a clump of dirt or a pebble the same shape as a pea.
Add about 6 cups of cold water and bring to a gentle boil. At this point, you want to get the peas to begin to open up.
When the peas look like this, turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for about an hour. The foam will dissipate somewhat, but after the hour passes, rinse the peas and drain, stirring up the peas to release the hidden gasses and the greenish foam. When the peas are relatively clear, add more cold water and put the pot back on the heat.
I add about a shot glass of flax seed - flax is very good for your health, but it is a hardy seed, not releasing the healthy oils unless chopped up or boiled for a long time to open the hull. Something like this soup is a perfect way to release healthy oils. I add about a cup of chopped carrots, 2-3 cloves of garlic, about a tablespoon of basil, and, in this case, about 1/4 of an onion. My husband doesn't care for the texture of onion but I love the flavor. I usually use dried onion for that reason, but my 1/4 onion was beginning to look a little sad, so I chopped it very finely.
Add the ingredients, and bring back up to a gentle boil. You may be tempted to taste the soup here. That's fine, but focus on the flavors of individual ingredients, not the need for salt. It will need salt, but the ham will add what you need.
While the soup warms up again, cut up the ham. I buy a single slice with center bone. Trim the fat, but make sure you put the bone in the soup. The marrow is very healthy and adds a nice richness to the soup.
Make sure you stir regularly. After the peas begin to thicken and break down, turn down the soup to low. I half cover the pot with the lid to allow it to cook down but also keeps it from splattering the stove. When your soup looks like this (see below)...
...begin to stir on a regular basis. This is where you have the possibility of the soup burning. The peas thicken up and clump on the bottom, and require diligent supervision. I don't mean that you're a slave to the stove, stirring constantly, I just mean that as you putter around, or, as I made drop biscuits to accompany dinner, I would pause every once in awhile to stir up the clumps.
The soup is ready when the peas show very little form individually. Taste it to make sure it suits your palate. The process takes some time, but I promise you won't be disappointed.
 
If you make this recipe, I'd love to hear whether you like it!

Homemade Split Pea Soup
1 bag of split peas, examined
 -Gently boil the peas for about 10 minutes, then cover and let sit for an hour. Rinse well and refresh     with cold water (about 6 cups).
1 cup of chopped carrots
1/2 an onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
 -Chop the vegetables and add to the peas. Bring it all to a gentle boil.
1 slice of ham, fat trimmed, chopped. 
  -Add the ham to the soup and let the entire mixture cook down

Low and slow is the way it goes from here on out. Stir frequently and turn down the heat. 

It is perfect on a day like today, dank and gloomy, or even better in mid-February when the wind is blustery and cold. Enjoy your soup!

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