In Fort Davis recently, we’ve had some seriously foggy weather… some might say it has been, “thick as pea soup,” an old phrase coined by Londoners in the 1800s for their foggy weather conditions. In our home, there has been an ongoing battle… the battle of whose split pea soup is better. We’re running a close tie, in my opinion.
I have fond memories as a child walking in the door after school on dreary, cold days, and Mom having a pot of pea soup on the stove. “Split pea soup on pea-soupy days,” she’d say. Even now, it never fails to warm me from the inside out.
Many people don’t like split pea soup simply because of its appearance. It’s kind of a funky green or murky yellow, depending on which peas you use. The only difference in the green and yellow peas is the color … the flavor is the same. Regardless of the color, I love the flavor of split pea soup.
The Greeks and Romans were growing these peas back in 500 BC. It’s been said that split pea soup was introduced to the United States in New England in the 1800s by French-Canadian millworkers. This soup was popular during the colonial period and consisted of a thinner soup with pork, carrots and dried split peas.
This fall, we’ve had quite a few pea-soupy days in Fort Davis, so split pea soup was the soupe du jour in our kitchen for many days. My pea soup is a thick soup with diced carrots, celery, onions and potatoes in it.
Mr. Johns recently decided to take over the pea-soup cooking because he prefers his pot of pea soup to be thinner like the colonial-days soup, without potatoes, and with the addition of salt pork we bought at the Sul Ross Meat Store.
He claims that his soup is more nutritious because it has more water in it and is more hydrating than my thick, stick-to-your-ribs soup. If I really wanted to thicken my bowl of his delicious yet thinner soup, I’d mix in some mashed potatoes or cooked brown rice. I like either way, but I will admit that I do enjoy watching him do the cooking, even if I’m in charge of the clean-up.
We recently learned the hard way that you need to only purchase dried split peas whose freshness date you can check. We bought them in bulk, only to discover that after many hours of simmering, each pea was still hard and crunchy. Even the next day, still hard and uncooked. That’s not the type of split pea soup anyone is going to enjoy. Always buy the freshest peas (and beans, too) that you can find to insure faster cooking and better taste and texture.
Split pea soup is a nutrient-dense meal in itself. Dietary fiber is something we should all strive to add to our meals. It helps keep you full, and one cup of the green goodness contains at least 5 grams of dietary fiber, which is 17 percent of the daily recommendation in a 2,000 calorie diet. It’s also got potassium and vitamin K. Potassium supports your metabolism and helps regulate your blood pressure. Vitamin K helps our bodies respond to injuries. Personally, I normally eat more than one cup.
If you’re eating canned split pea soup, beware of the high sodium content of it. Hopefully you’ll be eating your homemade split pea soup, and enjoying the benefits of having a big pot simmering on the stove in this chilly West Texas weather. With cornbread on the side, you can’t go wrong.
Split Pea Soup
(NOTE: My husband is protesting this recipe simply because it isn’t HIS recipe.)
- 2 cups dried split peas
- 1 meaty ham bone or leftover ham (or a piece of salt pork, diced)
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 8 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons parsley
- 1 large onion diced
- 3 stalks celery diced
- 2 large carrots diced
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
Rinse peas and drain well.
In a large pot, combine peas, ham, broth, water, bay leaf and parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 1 hour.
Add in onion, celery, carrots, and pepper. Cover and simmer 45 minutes more.
Remove ham bone and chop meat. Return to soup and cook on low 20-30 minutes or until tender and thickened.
Discard bay leaf and serve.
Printed with permission of the Alpine Avalanche