Split Pea Soup with Ham

An awaiting bowl of warm happiness on a cold winter's night.

Every once in a while I get a nagging craving for a particular comforting dish, and in the winter it often comes in the form of soup. I’ve found that the craving will go on and on until I actually make whatever it is…oddly, even if I have some of it out of the house somewhere. This time it was Split Pea Soup with Ham.

This recipe began years ago when I was living on my own in a condo, and I really didn’t cook too often. One cold winter day, a downstairs neighbor of mine was working in the kitchen on something that smelled really good, and I was smelling that delicious aroma for hours…it was making me crazed with hunger! I kept passing my neighbor in the hallway during this marathon of cooking, and asked him what it was…”Oh, that’s just my split pea soup,” he said casually, and back into his apartment he went, shutting the door with a disappointing finality.

Some time later…a knock on my door, and there he was smiling broadly, hands thrust forward holding a container of hot, pea-green soup. I couldn’t believe my eyes…he’d kindly shared some of this massive pot of soup with me, and I was both touched and excited to taste what I’d been smelling all day! At first bite, I was enthralled by the flavors, including a lovely finishing touch of sherry and the pretty pink and savory chunks of ham floating around in all the green-y goodness. I’d never had split pea soup that tasted so wonderful. Later, I asked him how to make it, and bless his heart, he threw out all of these ingredients in haphazard proportions, like I would know what all of this meant and how to deal with it, and then he spent a long time talking about the many stages and hours of cooking. I really appreciated the time he took to tell me about the recipe, and rapidly tried to make some half-hearted notes…truly daunted by the amount of ingredients and this long, long cooking time, and then I set aside the paper, and of course didn’t make the soup.

But the thought of that soup remained, as did somehow the paper that I’d written on.

I'm not sure how I managed to keep this old paper for so long, but here it is in all it's scratched on glory!

Many years later, my husband expressed a great love of split pea soup with ham, always begging me to make some for him. One January after the holidays, I found myself in possession of a large leftover hambone with lots of meat on it. “Finally, I shall make this soup!” I thought. I found my torn scrap of paper amongst folders of recipe clippings that I’d collected and lugged around from place to place. The “recipe” now seemed more haphazard than I remembered, so I modified the notations, changed some ingredients I didn’t like and added some I did, and shortened the cooking time…I mean, it shouldn’t have to cook for 3 hours, for goodness sake! The end result of my first attempt was really quite good! Over time, I’ve tweaked it here and there, adding and changing quantities, and as it was dreary and cold the other night, I made this soup again. It was delicious.

Following is the way I like this soup best. Because I’m so fond of getting as many veggies into a soup or main dish meal, this soup is chock-full. I think using a hambone adds important flavor, as well as I particularly like the texture of the attached meat in this soup. Having said that, one could certainly make this soup with ham hocks, or a smoked turkey leg, or leave out meat entirely. With all the good veg and seasonings, I’m sure it would still taste good without meat, just not be quite the same “animal” so to speak…but do as you like, I totally understand having spent a short stint as a vegetarian myself. This soup freezes well, and grows thicker and of course tastier after the first day. The recipe below is based on having some to freeze for your next cold and/or rainy day.

Betsy’s Split Pea Soup with Ham
Makes about 10-12 servings and can be halved, freezes well.

2 1/2 cups diced celery
2 1/2 cups diced carrot
2 large peeled and diced onions
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2-16 oz. packages of split peas, rinsed well, drained and picked over
10 cups of low sodium chicken broth
10 cups of water
2 1/2 cups peeled and diced white potato
1 large meaty hambone, or you can add extra ham if needed
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried herbs de provence
2 cups shredded baby spinach
1/3 cup dry sherry
additional salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the celery, carrots, onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft and the onions are transparent, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, water, peas, hambone, potato, half the parsley, 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, the tarragon, and the herbs de provence to the pot and stir to combine. Bring the soup to a boil, skim off any foam from the peas, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the meat is falling off the hambone and the peas are cooked through, falling apart and mushy. Remove the hambone from the pot to a large plate and then remove the meat from the bone, separating the fat from the meat. Add the ham back to the soup and discard the bone and fat. Add the spinach and the sherry to the soup and allow it to cook for about 5-10 more minutes until everything is warmed through. Skim off the collected fat from the top of the pot, stir and serve with croutons.

Croutons

1 small baguette, sliced across into about 1/4 inch pieces
Shredded Asiago cheese or Parmesan, or just plain olive oil

Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the baguette slices and place under a broiler, toasting until the slices are golden brown and the cheese is melted, if using. Float a crouton on top of the soup and serve extra alongside for dunking.

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48 thoughts on “Split Pea Soup with Ham

    • Sorry about that, Sharyn! As previously stated in the questioning, I love all peas and legumes EXCEPT English peas, which I know you hate, too. Now oddly, one might think that split peas would also be unappealing, but they don’t have that nasty sweet quality of the other pea, at least to me, so I do love them in this soup!

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  1. Wow! What a great looking soup. I love the vibrant green with the touch of pink – very inviting looking. And that photo of that recipe is a classic! I find that the recipes that come from scraps like that make the best food. And so many vegetables in that soup – it must be so good for you.

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    • Why, thank you, Charlie Louie! I agree about the recipes on paper scraps…I actually have a bunch I need to revisit in folders, and some are family recipes I want to try again. It’ll only take me a day or so to go through all of those clippings!

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  2. This looks like a very good recipe, Betsy! I’ve got a raw pork leg bone in the freezer from the New Year’s Day pork roast that is destined for split pea soup. If mine looks half as good as yours, and tastes half as good as I imagine yours does, I will be one very happy diner that evening!

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    • That’s very high praise, John, and thank you so much for the wonderful compliments! I would venture to say with great confidence that your split pea soup will definitely be as good as mine, if not even better! I’m looking forward to reading about it. πŸ™‚

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  3. What a lovely story, and such a decent neighbour, Betsy. Split pea is certainly one of our favourites too, although we don’t have it often. Cooking it all day with the aromas speeding throughout the house gives me a warm comforting feeling too. Kind of like a warm fuzzy blanket wrapped all over (not a slanket, shame on your for even thinking it might be ;-)).
    I love that you kept the recipe all these years and that it’s tattered and torn and scribbled with notes; sadly these computer days will have obliterated those lovely books of collected recipes.

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    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, Eva. Yes, Bill was a really good neighbor and we kept in touch briefly after I sold my condo. I think of him fondly and remember his great cooking every time I see this paper, and do hope he is well. You’re right about the computer days making papers more obsolete, and because of the computer I’ve recycled a lot of my recipe clippings from magazines, but try and keep all hand written stuff!

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  4. This looks great and so comforting! That was so kind of your neighbor and great that you were able to perfect the recipe to what it is now πŸ™‚ I’ve never tried split pea soup, but it looks great so I might need to add this to my long list of soups for this winter!

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    • Hi Stefanie! Thank you so much for your compliments and for stopping by. I know what you mean about long soup lists…so many to try and so little time because where I live, the season for hot soup is rather short! πŸ™‚

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    • Hi Kiran, thanks for visiting! The Indian version with curry and spices would be amazing, I’m sure, because I love Indian spiced lentil soups and have made a few myself. And now that you mention it, I’ll bet curry would be really good in this soup…though I might lose the tarragon in that case. Thanks for the idea!

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  5. I love this soup so much but rarely make it now as I canΒ΄t get split peas in Andalucia. Am going to skip over to my fridge now and jot “split peas” down on the permanent list I keep for when visitors come over ans ask “what can we bring over for you”! Gorgeous recipe….

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    • That surprises me, Tanya, that you can’t get split peas in Andalucia. They seem so common, but then there are all the lovely things you CAN get there and we can’t! Thank you for your kind words and I wish I could send you some of my soup! πŸ™‚

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  6. Oh, this sounds fantastic! I saw your blog mentioned – along with mine, which was so nice! – on Hotly Spiced and had to check it out! I love split pea soup and, as it’s snowing like mad today, think I better try this!

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    • Hi Gretchen, welcome and thanks for stopping by and your comments. This soup would be wonderful on a snowy night for sure! I was wishing for snow when I made it, but alas, the only snow here was in my mind…I hope you will try it, and I’m dashing off now to check out your blog. Have a great day!

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    • Hi Jed, I hope you will try it and thanks for stopping by and commenting! I’m about to start work on setting up my Reader for the same reasons, so no worries and back at you as well! πŸ˜‰ I think I’ve just reached a level of critical mass in trying to keep up with everyone’s posts via email. You have a fantastic weekend, too!

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  7. Split pea and ham soup is a family favourite in my house. I make it after each holiday dinner where ham has been served. However, I really like the looks of your version Betsy — particulary the addition of sherry (which I would never have thought to add). I’ll tuck this recipe away unitl my next hambone. I wish that community spirit was as prevalent between houses, but there’s not as much bumping into one another as when you live in a condo. or apartment. My mom lives in an apartment and her neighbour is always dropping off soups and casseroles. I just love that…..

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    • I know what you mean, Barb. Since we bought and moved into our house, this type of community spirit is becoming more rare. Some of it seems to be age related perhaps? I don’t know, but I agree…when I lived in a condo, you always spoke and shared with your neighbors, and my mom’s neighborhood is still like that, as it was when I was growing up. I’m glad you like the sound of this recipe. The sherry is pretty important and I hope you’ll give it a try!

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  8. Betsy, your soup sounds as good as your tale about the recipe. I make split peas soup but yours is so different with the spinach, tarragon and herbs de provence. Thanks for sharing your treasured recipe with us.

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  9. I love split pea and ham soup! There’s nothing like it on a winter’s day. And yours looks amazing πŸ™‚ I almost wish it was soup weather here just so I can make it….am going to have to save the recipe for winter in the southern hemisphere! Thanks for sharing.

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    • You’re so welcome for the share, Yorkes Girl and thanks for stopping by and your comments. It’s a pretty cold weather soup, that’s for sure. I hope you do try it when the weather is right for it…it’s mighty tasty!

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