Of course it’s holiday time. And while we’re busy with festivities, trying to get cookies baked, attempting to find or wrap gifts, spreading words of good cheer, going to concerts, figuring out if we’re naughty or nice (I know what I am) and maybe even decorating the house, we still have to eat. Magazines, newspapers, tv shows, and social media feeds are full of cheeseballs topped with red and green peppers, hard-looking painted sugar cookies (not my style), and awesome instructions for making the perfect Christmas day roast beef, should you be able to afford one. But right now we’re still wondering, “What’s for dinner?” If you’re anything like me, you feel like a very rich woman indeed when a slow cooker is bubbling away all day in the kitchen promising dinner minus the 5pm shuffle to the fridge and the eye-roll glance into the pantry to see what you can come up with. Dinner’s a done deal. You could have skied or shopped all day because come 6 o’clock, there’s nothing left to do but grab a bowl, get a spoon, and pour the wine. And if you love spit pea soup, but never make it, my simple version’s the one for you. There’s a tish of prep before you dump — an unfortunate cooking expression if ever there was one — everything in the pot and push the start button, but I promise it’s not much and offers greatly increased taste. So don’t skip it, ok?Jump to Recipe
I’ve been making Split Pea Soup for as long as I’ve been making soup, and it fits in several places in my life. Somehow, I rarely used a recipe or wrote one down until I decided to add this soup to the blog during the Covid lockdown. While I’m happy I documented my meal, it’s interesting to go back now and read:
Going through the recipe, I discovered I’d set the copyright date at 2019; this was March, 2020. Perhaps we were all a little out of it those first few weeks. I wonder how many other small errors went undiscovered. Probably some big ones, too.
Split Pea Soup figures in a couple of other food memory spots for me; maybe it does for you, too? When our children were growing up, Dave and I often took them tent camping for vacation. There are mostly wonderful memories from those trips (also ones like the one where a fat raccoon got up on our table and ate our beautiful loaf of banana bread or the time it rained so hard through the night our tent almost washed away) but I often made Split Pea Soup on the camp stove because it was cheap, fast, hot, filling, took few ingredients that were easily kept, was delicious, and went a long way. Later on, when the kids took off and got through college, we could afford more upscale vacations and began cruising. Still one of our favorite escapes; we leave for the Mexican Riviera December 22! On Holland America Line (HAL), our favorite cruise line, their signature, thick Dutch Pea Soup (split pea) is often served in the buffet, in the dining room, but most especially out on deck when we’re visiting a really cold spot in Alaska or Norway. There you are freezing your butt off looking at a glacier, and a wonderful person walks up with a tray of Holland America Line Dutch Pea Soup- Erwtensoep to warm up your soul and your body. The soup has become a fond trademark of devoted Holland fans and we’ll probably see it on the menu even on our Mexico trip–at least in the Dutch Café. We’ll gobble it up gratefully.
Buying Split Peas: You can grab a bag of split peas at any grocery store for a song or at least for under two bucks a pound. But you can also order straight from the source, which for me is Palouse Brand Split Peas out of Palouse, Washington. The price might be a little more than the store, but you’re getting guaranteed tasty-tasting peas (or chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, etc.) There are peas and beans and there are peas and beans. There’s fresh and there’s stale. There’s the great feeling of having a little extra food squirreled away. You’ll need to order 4 or 5 pounds of each at a time, but you can order a variety pack. They’re also available on amazon.
However and whenever you decide to make your version of split pea soup (add cabbage, fennel, sweet potato, tomatoes, skip meat, add veggie broth….), I’ve no doubt you’ll be well-fed and happy when you try this Peasy Easy Slow Cooker Split Pea:
Peasy-Easy Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 4 large plump garlic cloves, minced
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon EACH dry thyme and oregano
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup dry white wine, optional
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 5 cups water or more as needed to thin soup
- 1 generous shake of hot sauce
- 1- pound split peas, picked over and rinsed
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 large carrots, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
- 1 medium parsnip, peeled, cored, and cut into small dice (can use 2 potatoes instead of 1 parsnip and 1 potato)
- 1 medium russet potato, unpeeled and well-scrubbed, cut into small dice
- 2 smoked ham hocks
- 1 cup diced ham
- Red wine vinegar, croutons, and grated Extra Sharp Cheddar for serving
- MELT THE BUTTER in a covered large, deep skillet or dutch oven and add the onions, garlic, celery, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring several times. Pour in wine and cook for a few more minutes until the wine is absorbed.
- SPOON THE VEGETABLE MIXTURE INTO A SIX-QUART SLOW COOKER and pour in the broth and water. Add the hot sauce, split peas, bay leaves, carrots, parsnip, potato, and ham hocks.
- COOK ON LOW for 8-9 hours or until peas are tender, checking part way through to adjust seasonings and to add water if the soup is too thick. Remove ham hocks, let cool a few minutes, and remove the fat and gristle. Chop remaining meat, return it to the slow cooker along with the diced ham, and cook another 30-60 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot with a few drops of red wine vinegar, some croutons, and a tablespoon or two of grated Extra Sharp Cheddar.STORAGE: Keeps 3-4 days in the fridge and 4-6 months in the freezer in covered airtight containers or freezer bags.
CROUTONS ARE A GREAT GARNISH AND A NICE WAY TO USE OLD BREAD: Add some olive oil to a skillet, heat, and briefly brown diced bread on both sides. Place in a paper-towel lined bowl and season with salt and pepper. To know when the oil is ready to cook, add one crouton to the pan before heating. When it begins to sizzle and brown, it’s time to add the rest of the cubes of bread.
CHANGE IT UP: I had a lot of vegetables on hand; you can use fewer or all carrots instead of parsnips and carrots. Or, as I noted, two potatoes instead of one parsnip and one potato. By the way, the potatoes will thicken up the soup, but can be left out. Any onions will do. Leeks? Even better! No garlic on hand? Forgo it or use a half-teaspoon of garlic powder. No broth? All water will make a tasty soup and often does. Ham hock or shank can be replaced with another cup of chopped ham, smoked kielbasa, or even a few pieces of diced bacon. If using bacon, sauté the chopped bacon in the oil at the beginning of the recipe until nearly crispy. Remove from the pan and reserve, adding back into the pot for the last hour of cooking.
If you liked this, you might also like my:
(Note: The stovetop version makes quite a few more servings if that’s something you need. Or you can make two pots full!)
or maybe my INSTANT POT: Cream of Pea Soup with Mint, Scallions, and Sharp Cheddar, which is also yummy cold.
Need a vegetarian version? Try MOOSEWOOD COOKBOOK’S SPLIT PEA SOUP.
LIFE GOES ON:
While many people indulge in spring cleaning, I’m sometimes more likely to make that move in December during Advent. (I’ll admit to being not much of a housekeeper; I’d rather cook or play the piano. It’s too late to change my spots.) Cleaning away the cobwebs, sweeping out the dusty-nasty corners of my heart (of course I have them-sigh), and preparing to welcome God (perhaps “love” is a better word for some) anew. It’s a symbolic or spiritual practice, I guess, and it’s not for everyone. I share it only to share how I live my life. Yesterday, I unloaded my china cabinet shelf by shelf, washed all the crystal and so on, oiled the wood, polished the glass, and honored each of these easily-broken possessions by remembering from whence they came. A few were wedding gifts, some came from my husband’s mother before she crossed the river, and others arrived as gifts from other loved ones in our lives — friends Lois, Rosemary, and several more. Today I spent an hour oiling and polishing my piano, letting it dry overnight to buff it to a stellar sheen tomorrow. Perhaps my carol playing will improve.
We’re off to work at our church’s Madrigal dinner tonight. In other parts of my life, I’d have been directing the music and arranging every little detail possible. Tonight, I just go build salad and dessert plates for over a hundred people, working with other congregants preparing the rest of a stunning roast pork (of course) dinner and enjoying other folks’ music making. I love the activities of Advent: the music, the food, the study, the prayer, the candles. A slow, thoughtful walk to where we begin anew once more. It’s great to have that opportunity. A month is simply not enough. Maybe my friend Tom Trinidad is right: we need an advent BEFORE Advent. I’m going to think about it.
By the way, I haven’t forgotten the cookie for 2022. It’s coming!! It might be something ginger-ish with white chocolate, but I’m not promising. What are you baking? If you want something holiday-ish, but don’t want to bake, per se, make my favorite snack mix from David Lebovitz. Move over, chex mix. Makes a nice gift, too. You’re welcome.
Enjoy your own December, whatever walk you embark upon…. I’m grateful, as always, for your company in my kitchen where I think of you often.