12/8/05 | Split Pea Soup
[ Currently Eating: Coffee, not surprisingly ]
Homemade split pea soup is something I’ve always wanted to try to make. The comforting image of steaming bowls of the olive colored soup with chunks of ham, carrots, celery and onion floating around in it has been ingrained into my subconsciousness. And it’s all Anderson’s fault.
Anderson? Yeah, I’m talking about Anderson’s Pea Soup in Buellton off Highway 101 very close to the “Dutchtown” of Solvang. Anyone who’s ever driven on a long trip up the 5 or 101 freeways in California HAS to have seen these billboard signs seemingly in the middle of nowhere proclaiming: “Try Anderson’s Split Pea Soup, only 227 miles!”.
I don’t actually have a picture of one of the signs but I plan to take one next time I drive up north. This is some marketing genius who thought of this. There is absolutely nothing to do while driving up these long stretches of highway, but look at the scenery. So they just buy up some cheap ad billboard space in 50 mile increments or so and plop their signs down advertising how far it is to their Pea Soup Headquarters.
I’d like to know how successful they are in getting people to think about Pea Soup… I know it’s certainly worked on me! I recently decided to make use of the extra ham and ham hock bones that are inevitably left over from Thanksgiving. I’ve never tried to make Split Pea Soup so I stopped by the market and picked up a few bags.
Helpfully, there was a recipe right on the bag. One thing about dried peas, beas, lentils… they are pretty much the same as far as I can tell. Thus, you might as well by the darned cheapest bag you can find. In this case it was the Albertson’s store brand of peas which came out at 69 cents for a 1 lb. bag.
These dried peas and beans actually expand quite a bit, so while a half pound might not seem like enough, resist the temptation to add more. They soak up an amazing amount of liquid. Also, I didn’t know that they would break down in the manner they did. I thought I might need to use a stick blender or something to get the right consistency. But all you need to do is cook it.
Green Split Pea Soup With Ham
1/2 lb of dried green split peas — $0.35
4-6 cups of water — negligible
1 Ham Hock or Ham Bone with meat still on it — free!
1 bay leaf — $0.05
1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped — $0.25
2 stalks celery, chopped — $0.20
1 carrot, chopped — $0.10
2 garlic cloves, minced — $0.05
1/2 tbsp oil — $0.05
salt, pepper to taste — negligible
Wash and drain the dried peas. Watch out for tiny ROCKS in the peas… the occur every so often and can break your teeth if left in! If you’d like to, cut off the ham from the bones, cube it and set aside. Some people leave it on and then cut it off after cooking, but cutting it off before will decrease the saltiness of the soup.
Heat up the oil in a large pot, add the onion, celery, and carrot. Cook over medium heat until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute more.
Add the water, peas, ham bones, bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Cook half covered over low heat for about 1 to 1.5 hours stirring occasionally. When you get near the end of cooking, you can add the cubed ham if you’ve reserved it. Add salt and pepper to taste. Delicious split pea soup is now ready!
I was pretty amazed at how easy it was to make this. I’ve tried recipes that use frozen peas instead and this didn’t come out as good. The “rind” on the frozen peas doesn’t disintegrate as well, forcing you to use a blender to get the right consistency. The dried green split peas break up of their own accord.
One important note for this split pea soup is that depending on the saltiness of your ham and how much you put in, you will need to adjust both the amount of water and added salt. The good news is that you can add the water before or after, or anytime without affecting the overall quality.
The split pea soup with ham keeps in the fridge for at least a few days. You’ll notice the consistency gets really thick when refrigerated. Just add some water before nuking or re-boiling it.
This is a great way to make use of Thanksgiving leftovers. As I’ve said before, you want to stand up and claim that ham bone in the name of Cheap Eats before the other relatives do! If they argue, remind them that the holidays are a time for the spirit of giving, hehe.
The ham bone imparts a smoky subtle taste to the soup. It’s good enough for me, but those who like a lot of flavor may want to substitute a can or so of vegetable stock for an equal amount of water. Note, that if you do that you may need to increase the water or cut back on the salt.
Bought at: Peas at Albertson’s
Cheap Eats Score: 9/10