January’s always a bit of a weird time. The exciting kerfuffle of the holidays is over, and you’re left with short dark cold days, and lots of quiet time to think about the year ahead. I did quite a bit of reflecting on what I wanted to focus on this year, with our plans for the homestead and all, and in the midst of that I was also getting all my work prepared for opening up Creative Business School again (which I’m now accepting new students for, but will be closing enrollment again on the 4th). So basically, January flew right past me in a flurry, much like the intense rain storms our house has weathered these past few weeks.
I’m here now though, on the 1st of February, halfway between the winter solstice and the first day of spring, to share a little bit of cozy comfort food with you in the form of a green, hearty, and delightfully smokey soup. This is based on my grandpa’s recipe for split pea soup, and being a born and bred southern Indiana boy, he always cooked his with a smoked ham hock floating around in it. If you’re unfamiliar with a hock, it’s basically the knee/ankle joint of the pig. It’s usually smoked, and can be enjoyed as-is in all its fatty chewy smokey glory, but its true super power is its ability to make any liquid you boil it in taste wickedly good. In short, the best possible way to make split pea soup requires you to use a smoked ham hock. Or at least that’s how my grandpa felt about it.
If you don’t have one handy, you can chop up some bacon and throw it in there to still add a touch of that smokey flavor, but you’re missing out on all the richness from the cartilage of the hock itself breaking down, and the tender little bits of meat that come off of it and become at one with the muddled green stew. So I recommend trying to get one, if you can. To add some brightness to the mix, I really like stirring in frozen peas at the very end of cooking, so you still get little bursts of that bright, fresh spring-y flavor that fresh peas are packed with, plus the comforting heartiness of cooked up mushy split peas. And throwing some fresh thyme and parsley on top right before serving helps with this, too.
And while I didn’t put up a new post in January, I did re-test and update this absolutely delicious avgolemono soup recipe from the archives, so if you want to keep the soup train a-moving I’ve got you covered on that front. Wishing you all a very wonderful 2021, and I’ll be back again soon with a little lime tart to help you enjoy winter citrus season to its fullest! 🙂
Split Pea Soup with Smoked Ham Hock
Split Pea Soup with Smoked Ham Hock
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion chopped
- 10 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 pound carrots peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
- 3 stalks of celery cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
- 4 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 smoked ham hock or shank
- 1 pound dried split peas rinsed
- 7 cups chicken turkey, or vegetable stock
- 1 cup fresh or frozen shelled peas
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds optional
- Bread for serving alongside
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 shallots, cut in half lengthwise
Heat the olive oil in large pot over medium low heat. Add the onions and raise the heat to medium, then sauté until softened and translucent and some pieces turn lightly golden around the edges, about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every 4 minutes or so. Add the garlic and stir to incorporate and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, 2 teaspoons of the thyme, and the bay leaf and stir to combine. Allow to cook for another 10 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.
Nestle the ham hock in the vegetable mixture, then add the split peas and the broth and reduce heat to low. Cover the pot and allow to cook until the split peas have mostly disintegrated into the soup mixture, about 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes.
During the last 30 minutes of soup simmering, you can prepare the seared shallots. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, cut-side facing down, and cook until lightly golden and fragrant on each side. Remove from heat and set aside.
Remove the ham hock from the soup and place it on a wooden cutting board. Remove any meat pieces from the hock and chop the meat into roughly 1/2-wide cubes.
Stir the pieces of meat into the soup, remove the pot from heat, and immediately stir in the fresh or frozen peas, the remaining 2 teaspoons of thyme, and the parsley. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Serve with the toasted pumpkin seeds and seared shallots on top and some good bread on the side for dipping.