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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Split Pea and Ham Soup

I hated split pea soup as a kid. Or I hated the idea of it. The only place I actually saw it was in the school cafeteria where it looked like something that was fairly unappetizing. It was canned. Overcooked. Pureed to death. Ugly.

As an adult, I find split pea soup comforting. It's a perfect way to use leftover ham. And while you have to start a little in advance, it's simple to put together.

I've discovered two keys to making this soup delicious instead of disgusting. First, don't cook it too long. Most recipes will tell you to leave it in the crock pot all day. Don't believe them. Four or five hours cooking on low will be plenty of time for the peas to soften. Add the vegetables even later than that, maybe one or two hours before you plan to serve the soup. Otherwise you'll get mush. I also like to add a cup or so of small diced ham a half hour or so before it's done for a little extra flavor.

Second, be sure there is enough liquid in the soup. Dry split pea soup has a heavy, mud-like texture that is hard to choke down. Well hydrated soup is a joy to eat. Trust me.

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

9 cups water
1 (16 ounce) package dried split peas, rinsed and sorted (2-1/4 Cups)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4 inch slices (1-1/2 Cups)
2 stalks celery, finely chopped (1 Cup)
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 ham bone or 2 lbs ham shanks or smoked pork hocks

Mix peas, ham bone and water in a five quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours or until peas are starting to become tender. Add vegetables an hour or two before the soup is done. When the peas are soft, remove the ham bone and pull any cooked ham away from the bone. Add it back into the soup and serve.

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