Split Pea and Ham Soup
Mess Level: Moderate
Yield: 8 Servings
Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 2 hr
- 1lb (2 cups) Dried, Split Green Peas
- 2 Ham Hocks
- 120 oz (16 Cups) Stock
- 1 Medium Carrot
- 1 Small Yellow Onion
- 2 Stalks Celery
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 2 teaspoons Dried Oregano (optional)
- Oil for Sauteing
- Salt to Taste
- Pepper to Taste
- Cilantro or Fresh Oregano to Garnish
Note: If you use a base such as better than bullion instead of stock, keep in mind that base likely contains a lot of salt already so use caution when salting your soup.
- Finely dice the carrot, celery, and onion. You want roughly one cup of each vegetable. Mince your cilantro or oregano and set aside for garnish.
- Heat a soup pot over medium heat until it’s hot, but not smoking. Add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan and heat until it shimmers, about 30 seconds (I like to add equal parts oil and butter here for more flavor but it’s not necessary).
- Lower the heat, add the onion and saute until they begin to soften, about four minutes. Add the carrots and saute about four minutes more. Add the celery and saute another four minutes. Salt the vegetables to taste. Add more oil as necessary throughout the cooking process to keep the vegetables from sticking.
- Scoot the vegetables to the sides and increase your heat slightly. Add oil to the pan and place your ham hocks directly on the pan. Sear for about 1 minute each side, taking care not to burn the vegetables.
- Using caution, add a few cups of stock to the hot pan and scrape to loosen up any stuck vegetables. Add the bay leaf, dried oregano, and some black pepper.
- Rinse one cup of the split peas and add them to the soup. Add the remaining stock (add water if you need more liquid to cover everything) and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to the lowest setting and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, then rinse and add the other cup of split peas.
- Allow to simmer with the lid on for another 30-45 minutes or until the peas and carrots are tender and the ham is falling off the bone.
- Remove the ham hocks and when they’re cool enough to handle, shred the meat and return it to the soup.
- For a thicker broth, smash a few of the split peas along the side of the pot. Add extra stock for a thinner broth.
- Remove the bay leaf and discard, add plenty of pepper and salt to taste. Serve with a chunk of sourdough bread if desired. Enjoy!
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What is a ham hock and where can I find one?
- A hock is better than it sounds...
A ham hock is the lower part of the pig's leg. Meaty on the outside, bone on the inside. The butcher section of most grocery stores should have them, ask your butcher if you’re not sure.
Can I make this soup with boneless ham?
- Fine... Be that way...
Sure! Just dice up the ham and brown it in the pot, then remove it, before you start sauteeing your veggies. Keep in mind the hambone adds a lot of flavor so consider adding a bit of soup base to enrich the flavor.
I’ve made split pea soup before and it ended up thick and mushy.
- Cook the peas, don't destroy them...
That can happen if you overcook the peas! This is easy to do which is why this recipe has you add half later. We plan to have the first peas give themselves up to add flavor and thickness to the broth. The second half of peas are there for texture and visual appeal.
The soup is still bland, how do I fix it?
- You decided not to get the ham hock eh?
This can happen if you perhaps used boneless ham and water instead of stock. This will cost you a lot of flavor so check your salt! Add some chicken base if you have it, build flavor by adding extra oregano and plenty of black pepper.
Can I make this in the crock-pot?
- Are you feelin lucky?
You can! The only issue you’ll run into is the peas all cooking to mush since you likely won’t be around to add peas halfway through the cook time. But if you don’t mind that texture go for it! I would advise having some extra stock on hand to thin out the soup before serving though.
Ramblings of a Line Cook
I once worked at a restaurant where we served a different soup every day. I was the AM cook and I’d arrive at 6:00 in the morning, bleary-eyed and half asleep, turn on the oven, the fryer and grill, and rush through setting up the line for breakfast so I could get started on the soup of the day.
When I started this job I was no soup expert. I didn’t really understand what it was that sometimes caused the soup to be so full of flavor that you just closed your eyes in a state of manic bliss, and what caused it to sometimes fall flat, in a watery-tasting grave filled with the dreams of wilted root vegetables.
The thing I’ve learned about cooking is you learn by doing. And I suddenly had to get good at making soup! I had a tomato soup recipe up my sleeve from a former restaurant but that will only get you so far so I started exploring my options; What was in the walk-in? Could these flavors go together? What leftovers needed to be used up? And the best thing I learned… How to finish the soup when you have a good base but the soup just falls flat.
This split pea and ham recipe is the perfect example. This soup can be amazing or it can taste like mushy peas in water, and here’s why: You need to build up layers of flavor in anything you make, but especially a soup! This recipe calls for carrots, celery, and onions as your base. These are the holy trinity of French cooking and they are the vegetables you use to make a good stock or broth because they lend a lot of flavors when slowly simmered.
Next, you need umami! The peas will add some, the salt will add some, and in this case, the hambone, in particular, is going to add a lot! You could absolutely make this soup with just some chopped up ham if you don’t have a ham bone, but you’ll want to compensate for that flavor with extra spices, salt, herbs, and maybe even some chicken or veggie base.
So, to summarize: When making a soup you need to build the flavors. This recipe does that naturally because of the mirepoix and the hambone. But let's say you’re making a purely veggie soup and you don’t have any stock on hand. You’re going to need to build up that missing flavor! Consider adding sugar, tomato paste, a little heat, roasted garlic, vinegar if appropriate, and always, always make sure you’re salting well. The soup shouldn’t taste salty, it should taste like soup x 100!
PSA when buying split peas from the bulk section of the grocery store take care that the bag doesn't get caught on the conveyer belt during checkout and rip. It will leak little, dried peas all over and you and the cashier will both stand there awkwardly trying to figure out what to do about it.