Nothing beats a bowl of split pea soup when it’s cold outside. This recipe has ham, split peas (of course), and bacon. The ham hock releases a lot of flavor as it slowly cooks into the soup. The bacon is good for salty crunch. If you haven’t got a ham hock or bacon, salt pork works fine. Add some crusty bread, or a sandwich, and you’ve got lunch.
The original recipe came from the NY Times Cookbook, but I’ve changed it a bit. For one thing, it made up to 10 servings (which means one person would be eating soup for a very long time)! This recipe is only for four servings. Just enough to enjoy it without feeling like you are drowning in split pea soup!
That recipe also called for celeraic (which I never have) and salt pork. Salt pork is fine, but I found it worked really well with bacon (preferably Trader Joe’s no nitrate bacon).
It also freezes well, so you can save some soup for later.
Split Pea Soup with Ham Hock and Bacon
Split pea soup with ham and bacon.
1 cup dried green split peas
32 oz. cold water
2 slices diced bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small bay leaf (or half a large one)
1 ham hock (or use a ham bone)
1 tsp salt
generous grinding of pepper
Optional: 1/4 C chopped leek, one carrot (sliced), one frankfurter
Wash the peas under cold water. Sort through them to remove any stones that may have gotten mixed in. Put in a large pot and add the water. Let stand overnight. If you're in a hurry, use my quick soaking method for the split peas.
Cook the bacon in a skillet for five minutes, until browned. Add the onion (and leek or carrot if using), and cook the mixture for another 10 minutes. The vegetables should be soft.
Add the vegetable/bacon mixture to the pot with the split peas. Add the bay leaf (I like to use a tea ball for this so it's easy to find again), salt and pepper to taste, and the pig's knuckle (or ham bone). Cover and bring to a boil (slowly). Once it comes to a boil, turn down the heat, Let the soup simmer for two hours. If it gets too thick, add half a cup of water.
Once the ham hock (or bone) is tender, remove it from the soup. Run it under cool water (so you can handle it), then shred the meat and set it aside. Throw away the bone. Fish out the bay leaf (or just remove the tea ball) and discard that too.
Using a hand blender, puree the soup.
If you don’t have a hand blender, use a standard blender with a towel over it. Why the towel? So the soup doesn’t fly in your face and all over the room. If you take the plastic cup out, cover the hole with a towel, and blend, the steam can escape and the soup stays put.
If you’ve got the hand blender, all you have to do is immerse it in the pot and press the button. It’s easier and there’s less cleanup.
Put the meat back into the soup and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve hot.
The prep time assumes you use the quick soak method for the beans.
Put the bay leaf in a tea ball so it's easier to remove.
Substitutions and Variations for Split Pea Soup with Ham Hock
- the original recipe called for 1/2 C diced leek (great for flavor, but not something I usually have in the fridge); if you use it, reduce the amount to about 1/4C.
- cut up a frankfurter or a chunk of kielbasa, cook it and add it to the soup
- add a carrot for a bit of sweetness
- top with croutons
- cook some extra bacon, crumble it, and top the soup with it
- add freshly grated parmesan cheese
- add a parmesan or Manchego cheese rind to the soup while it’s simmering
More Soup Recipes
Lentil Bean Sausage Soup
Red Lentil Soup with Carrots
Moroccan Chicken and Bean Soup
Image of soup in blender with towel thanks to joelk75