Despite it being almost a requirement after any holiday involving a ham, I have never made split pea soup with ham. I decided this year’s leftover Christmas ham bone would be my test subject.
I made the mistake of not deciding on a recipe before I started cooking, only to find that the recipe I ultimately opted to go with would have me not add the onions and carrots that were sauteing away in the pot until AFTER the peas and the ham had been simmering away for an hour. No worries, it’ll all be in there in the end! Perhaps just not quite as recognizable.
I started the whole thing off by heating up my cast iron pot and cooking up two slices of bacon. I wanted to render the fat from the bacon and saute the onions in it, so I let it fry up to a nice crisp, then removed the bacon and threw in the onions. My original intent was not to actually include the bacon in the soup, which is why I left it whole, but Bikenut convinced me to add it back to the soup instead of making a snack of it. If I were to do it again, I’d chop up the raw bacon and saute that, then just throw the onions in with it once the fat was rendered. As it was, I chopped up the cooked bacon, cut up the carrot, and threw it all in the pot too.
Next into the pot went the split peas and the ham bone, along with some water and chicken broth. There’s a LOT of meat left on this bone, so I’m hoping that I have enough peas in the pot! I’d hate to end up with Ham Soup with Split Peas (and Bacon!) Oh, and per Bikenut’s suggestion/request, I added a few drops of all-natural, hickory-flavored liquid smoke. (With my allergy/sensitivity to mesquite, I was nearly overjoyed by the fact that the company produces (at least) two different flavors, distinctly branded with “Hickory” or “Mesquite”. No guess work for me! And no night of misery had I guessed wrong.) With everything now in the pot, it was up to a boil, covered, and down to a lengthy simmer.
After about 30 minutes, I had to flip the ham bone over because it was too big to be fully submerged into the broth. I gave the pot a good stir, then let it go for another 30 minutes. By then, the meat was falling off the bones. I plucked it all out of the pot and separated meat from bone and “not worthy” meat/non-meat-nor-bone parts, chopped it all up and returned the chopped meat to the pot. Another good stir, and we’re off to simmer a little longer, until the peas (and hopefully not the carrots) disintegrate into a lovely, velvety goodness.
It took about another 30-45m of simmering to really soften and (mostly) disintegrate the peas, and all the while, the house smelled of smoky, hammy deliciousness which got our mouths watering in anticipation.
Having now tasted the finished product, it is nicely smoky in flavor with a subtle sweetness from the honey glaze on the ham and the peas and carrots. The carrots maintained their form, but lacked in texture, so if you want your carrots to have more of a tooth to them, then I’d add them about 30 minutes before the soup is finished. Overall though, I’d rate this a success!
Split Pea Soup with Ham (and Bacon!)
- 2 slices of uncooked bacon, chopped
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 1 meaty ham bone
- 2 cups of split green peas
- 32 oz (4 cups) of chicken broth
- 2 cups of water
- 1/4 teaspoon of crushed marjoram
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 large carrot, diced
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat a large soup pot over medium heat.
- Fry bacon in pot until crisp and fat is rendered.
- Add onions to the pot and saute until translucent.
- Add split peas, ham bone, water, chicken broth, marjoram and bay leaf to the pot. Simmer for 1 hour, turning ham bone as necessary, and stirring occasionally.
- Remove ham bone and any large bits of meat from the pot.
- When cool enough to handle, (or using tongs and a knife) remove any remaining meat from the bones and chop into small pieces. Return meat to pot.
- Add carrots and simmer for another 30m, until carrots are tender and peas have melted into the soup.
- Remove bay leaf and serve!