If you drove through Colorado north to south and west to east, you would be fairly amazed at the amount of farmland in the state most often thought of as full of rocky mountains or The Rocky Mountains! You would also be overwhelmed with the beauty of our land.
While we’re more famous for scenery and ski slopes than for our produce, there’s more here than most folks would believe:
The world buys produce from Colorado! Colorado’s produce is shipped throughout the US and to over 115 countries around the world. Mexico represents the largest international market for seeds, edible beans, grains as well as our fresh produce including potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, watermelon, squash, spinach and split peas.colorado.gov
Earlier in Covid time, I began to shop at a small meat market, Ranch Foods Direct (Callicrate) not far down the road from our house, avoiding the large supermarkets full of shoppers. Right away I grabbed great local Sourdough Boulangerie bread there and soon also began coming home with hand-packaged bags full of a variety of legumes (beans, peas, lentils) as well as the occasional fresh produce. Wondering where the beans were coming from, I queried and discovered they were from Mauro Farms, just south of Colorado Springs in Pueblo county. (Mauro Farms also operates a well-known bakery in town.) Living in Colorado for over 20 years, I was a bit embarrassed to not be aware of this tasty local food source, but wasted no time cooking up their products.
A two-pound bag of split yellow peas followed me home one day and I had to admit I couldn’t remember before cooking yellow peas. Split peas are green, aren’t they? I had recently blogged a great Split Pea Soup with Ham, (at left) in fact.
A little internet research allowed that Yellow Split Pea Soup was a favorite in the Québec province of Canada, one of my very favorite spots on earth, mais oui! Oddly enough, to me anyway, the most-liked variety actually came in a can — much like the U.S.’s top-fave Chicken Noodle Soup.
Folks who moved out of the province, and couldn’t find their Habitant cans, resorted to cooking up a homemade version and that’s where some of the current recipes are from. Making good use of the Christmas ham or hambone was another important part of their recipe stories for the made-from-scratch soups, which some had always made anyway. However the soup was cooked, I was intrigued. (We’ve spent quite a bit of time in eastern Canada over the last several years vacationing, but also maintaining a condo in Montreal while Dave worked there for a few months in 2019. Part of our hearts stays way up north!)
Since I definitely knew how to make Green Split Pea Soup, I figured the yellow kind couldn’t be too difficult. I followed the Canadians’ leads and made a simpler sort of pot based on using up that leftover Christmas hambone, which could also be replaced by ham hocks, shanks, or a cup or two of chopped smoked ham. The yellow peas are a little sweeter, a bit less biting than the nuttier green; I also thought they took longer to cook. If you’re making this for the first time, watch your liquids (adding more as the soup becomes too thick if it’s not yet done), stir often, and figure on at least a couple of hours, if not more–depending on how high of a simmer you choose. Your house will again smell of Christmas (if you’re a ham holiday sort of cook) and I think my soup will bring just as much good luck as a pot of southern black-eyed peas — so try this:
Colorado Yellow Split Pea Soup for New Year’s Day
- 2 pounds yellow split peas – rinsed several times and picked over
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large yellow onions, diced
- 4 stalks celery, diced
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 medium carrots, trimmed and peeled, medium-diced
- 2 medium red potatoes, unpeeled, medium-diced
- Hambone or smoked ham hock or ham shank or a cup or two of diced ham
- 10 cups water
- 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
- Hot sauce—optional, to taste
- Set aside cleaned peas. Add oil into a 10-12 quart soup pot. Heat over medium flame for a minute or so; add crushed red pepper and garlic; cook for 30 seconds. Tip in the onions and celery; stir. Season with two teaspoons kosher salt, one teaspoon fresh ground pepper, thyme, and bay leaves. Let cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until onions are becoming soft.
- Add the carrots and potatoes, reserved peas, hambone, hock or meat, water, and chicken broth. Cover, raise heat to high, and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce to simmer, and cook until vegetables are tender and soup is thickened– 2 hours or more as needed, stirring regularly. Add a little more water or broth if the soup becomes too thick before it is done.
- Taste and adjust seasonings, adding a shake or two of hot sauce to taste. Remove ham bone or hock and let cool briefly. Chop the meat and return it to the pot; discard the bone or hock. Serve hot with grilled sourdough rye bread.
- STORAGE: Keeps 3-4 days in the fridge and 4-6 months in the freezer in covered airtight containers or freezer bags.
SHOPPER’S NOTE: If you can’t find yellow split peas in your grocery, they’re available online. Just look around for a decent price. They shouldn’t cost ten bucks a pound, for instance. Sometimes amazon can be ridiculously expensive.
WINE: I like a red Rhône wine with nearly any bean or pea soup, but given this is often a Canadian specialty, you might offer a beer of some sort.
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MORE INFO THAN YOU WANTED:
LIFE GOES ON:
A couple of nights before Christmas, we made a holiday party just for us: fondue. Not much better!
Our church, First Congregational of Colorado Springs (United Church of Christ) wrote and filmed a Christmas Eve service of lessons and carols to include “our” kids reading and re-enacting the nativity story. Here are two wise people bearing gifts. Yes, our landscape adds a lot to the scene!
The “babies” with their Santa gifts:
Christmas dinner table for two below. A first in our 46 years of marriage. Actually kind of fun! Very relaxing. I don’t cook Christmas Day. For many years, I worked as a Director of Music in several different churches, often working the late service and arriving home at oh dark early. Dave then began to give me December 25 off after a couple of cold shrimp and sauce Christmas dinners. The tradition continues. I do brunch; he does dinner, though I do the dessert. Beef tenderloin, Melissa Clark’s Mashed Potatoes, and Balsamic Brussels Sprouts. Christmas Pie (apple/pear/cranberry) Easy, luscious. Sineann Cabernet to drink.
Christmas Pie below: I use my Apple, Pear, and Cranberry Pie recipe with a holiday slant on the crust!
Rosie: all Christmased out…
We’ve spent a good bit of time in the days after Christmas driving around town to find new spots for short hikes while the sun is still high in the sky. Everyone else in town seemed to have the same idea. These guys gave us a laugh yesterday on our way home.
The buck stops here:
Here’s to our healthy 2021, friends. I look forward to sharing my kitchen with you for a twelfth year. I hope your season was all you needed it to be. I know. I miss the old ways, too, but I’m beginning to appreciate this current life. Hope you are, too.