“Perfect fall days” have escaped me this year, replaced by an unexpected October snowfall and unseasonably cold temperatures that beckon for a warm, satisfying meal. It has given me the opportunity, however, to “come inside” earlier this year and dig into my recipe box for hearty comfort foods. Soups are a favorite in our family, and I find it most enjoyable to make a big pot that can be savored over the course of several days. Creamy wild rice soup with bits of ham, homemade chicken noodle and cheddar baked potato are all favorites from our kitchen, but for me, one brings especially warm memories rushing though my mind and heart.
As a child, the vision of my mother ~ who hated to cook ~ preparing the family meal was very comforting. One of her specialties was split pea soup with ham. She would use the packaged split pea soup mix from the grocery store as a base, and would simmer it for hours with a meaty ham bone, onion, and carrots until it was, as they say, “as thick as pea soup!” It was rich and smoky, and especially delicious served with buttered matzo crackers.
I remember when I first met my husband George and invited him to stay for dinner after he remarked on how wonderful the house smelled. One of 12 kids, he was used to pretty basic meals made in mass quantities to feed the hungry brood, and had never tasted the likes of pea soup. Imagine, if you will, the look on his face when I told him what was gracefully simmering on the stovetop. He reluctantly took a bowl of the thick green “mess,” most certainly contemplating whether to eat or run! Graciously he took the tiniest of bites, quickly delighted (and relieved) by the savory flavor that had just graced his palette.
So today, split pea soup with ham is definitely a favorite in our home and hearts. And with the crisp chill in the air, it would make the perfect dinner tonight. Here’s my version of my mother’s split pea soup with ham ~ my kids freak out over onions, so I don’t include them, but my mom used to simmer a whole onion with the soup and remove it before serving.
Split Pea Soup with Ham
- 2 packages of Manischewitz bagged Split Pea Soup Mix
- 1 meaty ham bone ~ you can use a leftover bone from a ham dinner or buy a small bone-in ham
- Cut carrots
- Whole onion (optional)
- Place peas, water, whole onion (optional)and ham bone in a large Dutch oven and simmer covered for an hour or two until the peas are completely cooked.
- Remove the ham bone and let it cool while the soup continues to simmer. Once the ham is cool enough to handle, cut the meat off the bone into bite-sized pieces; discard the bone.
- Put the ham pieces, spices from the soup packages (one or both according to your taste preference) and carrots in the pot and continue to simmer with the cover off until the carrots are done and the soup thickens. Remove the onion before serving.
- Serve with crusty bread, saltines, or buttered matzo crackers (the lightly salted variety).