It is time to say goodbye to the Christmas ham and hello to the New Year.
This soup is my tradition for New Years Day or any other time when I find my self in possession of a ham bone bone. This year one of our local grocery stores had shank half hams on sale for $.99 per pound just before Christmas. A $10 spiral-sliced ham provided us with about six or seven pounds of neatly sliced ham and a bone and shank that made a gallon of rich soup. The soup alone is almost worth the price of the ham.
3 cups green split peas
1 gallon water
1 ham bone with shank meat attached
Soup base (optional)
4 bay leaves
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
Pinch of cayenne
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp oil or butter
Rinse the split peas and remove any pebbles or other non-pea matter. Add the peas, bay leaves, and ham bone to the water, bring to a simmer.
Simmer for about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
Add the onions, carrots, celery, and cayenne. Simmer 1 to 1 ½ hours, until the total simmering time is about 3 hours.
Taste the broth. Add some soup base if the broth tastes weak. I have never needed to add soup base.
Make a roux to thicken and bind the broth:
Heat the oil in a small skillet. Add the flour and stir until the mixture bubbles into a thick paste.
Add about a cup of the broth to the skillet and stir until you get a paste without lumps.
Slowly add this paste to the soup, while stirring vigorously. Bring the soup to a boil fro a minute or two. You should notice the soup thickening as it boils.
I like to serve this soup with toast. Crusty bread or crackers would also work well.
About ham bones
It looks like becoming a vegetarian is not one of my New Years Resolutions.
The soup gets most of its flavor from the ham bone. I tend to leave a fair amount of meat on the bone, since it improves the soup, and the weirdly shaped chunks of ham near the shank don't have a lot of other great uses. If the broth from your ham bone seems weak, you can add some beef, chicken or vegetable soup base to strengthen the flavor.
About split peas
You can find split peas near the beans and rice in your grocery store. Split peas come in yellow and green varieties. Make sure to use the green split peas.
About this recipe
This recipe is based on a recipe in “The Joy of Cooking”. I modified my recipe to better fit with my cooking idiosyncrasies. This recipe will be most enjoyable if you have a large soup kettle and plan to be near the kitchen for four hours. Two gallon capacity is about the minimum sized soup kettle you will need.
You can add the vegetables almost anytime after the soup has simmered fro an hour. However, the split peas and ham cannot be rushed without risking an inferior and uneven textured soup. The soup needs at least three hours to simmer. My approach is to get the soup to a simmer at the start of a football game on TV so I can have perfect soup shortly after the game ends.