I've had this ham bone in the freezer since Christmas, and it's time to use it up.
Even though we've had an unusually mild winter (so far), it's still chilly. And when you come in from walking the dog after work, or if you've actually had winter in your area and had to shovel snow, it's especially nice to have a nice bowl of hot soup. Especially a soup that sticks to your ribs and warms you up from the inside out. Like split pea soup.
So I have to confess - this is one that my mom almost ruined for me. I think I've mentioned asparagus and spinach before? Well, split pea soup in my house growing up came from a can with a highly recognizable red and white label. It was a sold cylinder of who-knows-what, and it had a questionable smell to match. One taste, and I swore off the stuff for life! Then, as a grown-up, I had some REAL HOMEMADE split pea soup that one of my husband's co-workers had made. It was one of those "Oh, so THAT's what it's supposed to taste like!" moments.
Since then I've gone over bunches of them in cookbooks and online. By the time I tweaked them all for taste and ease of preparation, this is what I came up with, and what I use every time I make it.
SPH Split Pea Soup
2 large onions, sliced
2 T. minced garlic
1/2 pound carrots, chopped (I used roughly half of a one-pound bag of baby carrots)
1 small heart of celery, with the leaves, chopped (again, half of a one-pound bag of organic celery hearts - there were 2 in the package, and I just used one)
3 medium-sized potatoes, SCRUBBED WELL, cubed, and optionally, peeled (I don't peel them because they will be pureed, for one, and for two, the peels add extra minerals and fiber to the soup)
1 pound green split peas (use yellow if you prefer)
1 ham bone
1 ham steak, roughly 2 pounds (if your steak comes bone-in, you don't need an extra bone), cubed in desired size
@ 2 t. Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or to taste - you can also use soy sauce)
1/2 t. thyme (or to taste)
2 bay leaves (optional - I use them if I have them on hand, but today I didn't)
About 2 quarts liquid (I used chicken stock and water)
Just a quick note about the ham: Make sure that whatever brand you are using is gluten free. Yes, the piggy itself does not contain gluten, but the curing and flavoring agents might. There may be some kind of cross-contamination in the processing of the piggy. Do a little bit of homework, and be sure your ham is gluten free.
So we are going to use Rachael Ray's "Chop and Drop" method of cooking today.
In a large crock pot, add sliced onions. Add the garlic. Chop and drop in the carrots. Repeat for the celery and potatoes. Spread the split peas evenly over vegies. Nestle the ham bone down in. Top with ham cubes. Add liquid aminos, thyme and bay leaves. Add liquid til all ingredients are covered. For me this was about 6 cups of chicken stock (what I had as leftovers in the fridge), then I used water. Cover, cook on low for at least 8 hours. I usually start mine on high for the first few, then drop it to low to let it simmer.
What I do next may surprise some people. Remove the ham chunks and the bone. Ok, the bone is no surprise, but I like big chunks of meat in my soup. Puree the bean mixture - you can use an immersion blender, pour it into a regular blender or food processor - whatever works best for you. Stir ham back into the soup. You could even leave your ham in, and puree it with the vegies if you like, or do some of each - it's soup. And it's your soup, so make it how YOU AND YOUR FAMILY like it.
I love the fact that I don't need to add salt. There will be plenty between the celery, liquid aminos, ham and stock. The potatoes will absorb whatever would be extra, and they make the soup really creamy as well.
Make some up now, and put this recipe in your file for the week after Easter and Christmas. This soup also freezes well. Serve with a crusty bread (Against the Grain brand), or some gluten-free biscuits.