Since my childhood, my favorite soup has always been split pea soup with ham, made for me by my grandmother. Can you help me to replicate that great taste and texture?

Joe asked Lauren:

Dear Lauren,

Gone are the days when a person gets served a good old fashioned (homemade) split pea soup. When I was a boy, my grandmother would make a huge pot of pea soup with ham and I haven’t had a soup that was nearly as satisfying since she passed (many years ago). Even the soups I get in a restaurant don’t seem to hit the spot. Wondering if there was a secret to making a great split pea soup and, if so, maybe you would share the recipe (so I can slip it to my wife)!! Thanks so much.

Lauren says:

Dear Joe,

The truth is, that “a great” pea soup (a great anything) is subjective and, although I’m sure that your grandmother’s soup was “slammin,” as my kids would say, I do think that the intense level of satisfaction you remember experiencing (and are hoping to revisit) is partially tied up in your love and devotion to your grandmother. This is so illustrative of how potent and far-reaching good simple food, soothing aromas and shared meals are, when prepared and shared in the right spirit. Although I can’t promise that my recipe will fully resurrect for you the presence of your departed (and beloved) grandmother, I can promise that this particular recipe has made my family very, very happy (for many years).

As far as a secret to making great pea soup, again, this is subjective. Some people love their pea soup so thick you can stand a spoon in it, while others prefer theirs to be quite thin and delicate. I like a soup of medium body, that’s made with both, green and yellow split peas, simmered in homemade chicken stock with some meaty ham bones, leeks, onions, garlic and carrots. Then, after all the solids have completely surrendered their texture, the solids are then strained and pureed in batches in the food processor until smooth. After that, the stock is recombined with the pureed solids (here’s where you can create the texture that will best remind you of your grandmother’s) and then the split pea soup is put back into a cleaned pot with lots of bite-size chunks of smoked ham and some sliced and blanched fresh carrots. I also stir in a thawed bag or box of whole green peas, which adds a wonderful texture, while further reinforcing the green pea flavor. So, at the end, you have a perfectly smooth, intensely flavored soup “base” that’s loaded with texture from the ham, carrots and peas.

Although making split pea soup with ham is a perfect way to use leftovers after making a large glazed ham for holiday meal, that’s certainly not necessary. You can also ask your butcher for some meaty ham bones (which they usually have on hand). You can also use ham hocks, although they’re usually quite salty, so you’ll want to blanch them in two separate boiling water baths, each for about 2 minutes, before simmering them in the stock with the split peas. For the extra ham that’s added after pureeing, you can just buy a couple of large ham steaks and sear them in a pan in some hot butter until golden on both sides. Then just cut the steaks into cubes. I usually serve the soup, ladled into warmed soup bowls and serve a bowl of Crispy Garlic Croutons at the table, to be scattered on top.

So, here’s my family’s favorite Double Split Pea Soup with Ham. My hope, is that having this recipe will enable you to reawaken one of your more cherished and delicious memories, and to also feel excited about your new ability to, at whim, provide that same sense of comfort to those you love. Notice how I’m directing this to YOU…Your wife might need a break! Enjoy.

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