As many of you know, I grew up in suburban St. Louis – Webster Groves – and left for college at Parsons School of Design here in NYC. So whenever I would go back home, my Mom would always have a big pot of pea soup with ham waiting for me as my first dinner home. It was my request as I adore pea soup and my mom made the best. My father would help her watch over it and stir every once in a while, referring to the simmering soup as it was “smiling”. And then he would “sweeten” it some more with Tabasco when she wasn’t looking. My friend Joan even remembers and still has my Mom’s handwritten recipe card. My card is pretty beat up and in my handwriting. I must have gotten the recipe over the phone from her. I had no idea that Joannie had an original Mom-handwritten one or that she had the recipe at all!
Now is the perfect time to make pea soup. Make a big pot and freeze some for later. Mom always seemed to have a ham bone with meat left on it to use. I use ham shanks from my butcher Bob. He cuts them in half to be able to get more flavor out of them while cooking and these babies are really meaty. (see photo below) Once again, I have made this recipe my own and changed up Mom’s. Another butcher in Summit, NJ gave me the tip of adding whole milk or cream at the end, to smooth it out and that it does! I hope you love this as much as I do.
SOPHIA’S COUNTRY SPLIT PEA SOUP – ADAPTED
1 lb. dried split green peas
1 ham bone with meat on it or 2 ham shanks, each cut in half
1 ½ cups chopped onions
1 ½ cups chopped celery with leaves – about 3 stalks
5 carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
4 dashes Tabasco plus 3 more at the end
1 tsp. dried thyme
4 smallish red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut into eighths
½ cup whole milk or cream
Wash off peas in cold water, drain, then cover with 2″ cold fresh water and let sit for one hour. Drain again, add 14 cups of cold water, put on high heat and let come to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. Add the ham bone or shanks, 2 bay leaves and 25 whole peppercorns. Simmer very slowly for 2 ½ hours, skimming any foam, stirring every once in a while, partially covered. Then add onion, celery, carrots, garlic, Tabasco and thyme. Simmer for another hour, uncovered, then add potatoes and simmer for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, until potatoes are tender. Remove ham shanks or bone to a platter and remove all meat from the bones. Discard bones and fat, put shredded or small bite-size chunks of ham back in the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste along with 3 more dashes of Tabasco and ½ cup of milk. Serve with buttered rye bread. We used to dip it in the soup. Yummy and so soothing and comforting.