Ham and Split Pea Soup Recipe with Bacon

By Greg B.  Split pea soup is one of those comfort foods that I think people don’t like as kids, but as we grow up and mature we develop a taste for.  When you’re young, this is a meal that comes from some obvious potential other source… ‘puke’ green in color, ‘weird’ texture, ‘chunks’ of ham in it.  But once you grow up a little bit, you realize this is an excellent meal.  It’s a great way to use ham bones from a previous meal, and it’s very healthy for you as well!  It is essentially almost totally vegetable based, but with some ham, and animal fats for flavors.  So lets get to the recipe!

The recipe I have is basically what I cobbled together in my house.  I had made sausage the week prior, and had a ham bone in the freezer that needed to be used.  The bitter, windy cold had set in for early January and all I could think about was how good a bowl of this would be!  So, for ingredients, you will need:

  • 1lb split peas (I used 3/4lb green, 1/4lb yellow… I was playing with the color scheme of the meal!)
  • 1 Ham bone (This was from some pork butt, and not well butchered by me, so it had plenty of meat on it)
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, pressed and diced
  • 1lb bacon, crisped (save the fat for frying!)
  • 1 12o bottle of beer, Ommegang witte
  • sea salt, black pepper to taste
  • large dash of ground coriander

The first order of business is to crisp that bacon, and render as much fat from the bacon as possible.  You can save most of this, but retain a good 1/4 to 1/2 cup for cooking the rest of the food in (I know, it seems like a lot, but hey, at least it’s not partially hydrogenated oil, it’s halfway decent rendered animal fat!  besides, you can use as much or as little as you want in your own recipe, I make no real claims about my food being very healthy! ).  In a nice, thick metal pot (I used my cast iron-enamel braising pot), heat the oil, then sear the ham bone and meat.  Be sure to season the meat before searing as well.  Just before the the meat is done, add the vegetables and cook for 1-2 minutes to lightly brown them.  Add the 12oz of beer, followed by 3 bottles full of water (Just re-use the empty beer bottle).  Add the split peas, bring to a medium simmer, season a bit more and add the coriander, put the lid on the pot and walk away.

If you’ve read my recipe posts, you know that I don’t generally post rigid time, seasoning and temperature constrains.  There are a ton of variables for ‘cooking time’, so I’m not even going to bother.  The important thing is that the liquid cooks down and the split peas absorb most of the liquid.  In doing so, they swell with the water and beer, then the heat continues to cook them and they break down.  You’ll know this meal is almost ready when you can stir the pot, and are essentially stirring a bright green, thick and hearty liquid with vegetables and a ham bone inside.  At this point, remove the ham bone to let it cool a few minutes.  Once cool, strip all the remaining delicious pig meat off the bone and add that to the soup.  When it comes time to serve, I like to crumble and mix in a little bit of the crisped bacon to the soup.  Let the soup cool for a few minutes, as something this thick, textured and hearty will retain a good amount of heat for a long period of time!  You can easily burn your tongue with this one.  If you’re going to serve this with a beer, I’d recommend something crisp and refreshing, like a pale ale or India pale ale.  Given the texture, temperature and flavors in this soup, a refreshing beer will help cleanse the palate and leave you ready for the next spoonful.

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