Split Pea Soup: A story of Three Beers and a Crockpot

Super tasty split pea goodness.

It was Sunday and Thogg had been home from the hospital for two days. Monday would mark the first day he would be allowed small amounts of non-red meat. We had already given him some soft marinated tofu with rice porridge and he had done well on that so it was full speed ahead. After all the crazyness of getting caught up on chores and groceries we decided it would be a good day to stay at home, build a fire in the fireplace and keep our pajama pants firmly in place. For those of you who know Thogg in real life, he does not drink. I do not hold myself to such lofty goals. After lunch I sat around in my pajamas and decided it was beer-o-clock. Walking to the fridge revealed a nice chocolate bock: just the thing to get me going on a cold winter day. *A quick apology to anyone that is getting too many notifications for my recipes today. Taking care of a sick family member kept me from posting for a while and I am doing some catching up today.*

Using one of my many trusty churchkeys that can be found safely nestled around my kitchen I popped the top and heard the satisfying hiss as the CO2 rushed out of the bottle neck. A quick chug had me deciding that the Sam Adams sampler I’d purchased for the holidays had at least one good beer in the variety. I looked around the fridge, thinking about what I would make for tonight or tomorrow’s main meal. I spied a little bit of honey spiced ham I’d made a few days past. A check in the freezer and I verified that I’d remembered to save and freeze the ham bone. Walking to my pantry, I grabbed a pound of dried split peas and came up with a plan. Split pea soup. It would be a perfect meal for Thogg’s first foray back into real food. After being on nothing but liquids for a while I decided he could do with some veggies, complex carbs and a bit of protein.

Into my trusty 6 quart crock pot i placed the following:

  • 1 still frozen ham bone from a previous holiday meal already trimmed of visible fat
  • 7 cups of water
  • 1 pound (about 2.5 cups) of dried split peas – picked over and rinsed

Into a medium sized frying pan over medium heat I placed:

  • 1 medium to large onion – finely chopped
  • a little bit of olive oil
  • a small pinch of salt and several grinds black pepper

I sweated those out until it started to turn slightly translucent then added:

  • 1 clove of garlic – finely minced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme (or about 1/2 to 3/4 tsp dried)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 ribs of celery – chopped small

Once the garlic and herbs were fragrant I added them to the crock pot, set it to low and walked away.

I let my crock pot do its magic for a bit, took the dog for a walk, put some more wood on the fire, got some house work done and cracked open another beer from my sampler case. This time it was the Sam Adams Holiday Porter. A sip and I decided it wasn’t the best porter I’d ever had but considering that Sam Adams is large enough to almost be considered a macro-brewery it was pretty good. I would have liked a bit more of a rounded malty flavor and deeper notes of chewy toasted depth but it was still pretty good. Another win for the day. It was now time to check on the crock pot (it had been a few hours since I’d originally dumped everything in).

Crockpot magic about to happen.

One thing to say about ham bones, no matter how much you trim them, they always give off a lot more fat than you think they will. Since I like to eat on the healthier side I stood there and skimmed off all the fat from the top. The trick to this is doing it before you stir everything in and the peas have started to break down. All in all because I’m an expert skimmer and had my trusty favorite skimming spoon I took out almost every last globule of fat and got about 1/4 cup of lard in a bowl. Checking back in an another half hour verified the fact that no more fat was leeching out into the soup as the top remained oil free and the peas still had not started to break down and were not really capable of absorbing much fat and liquid yet.

I decided to up the veggie quotient even more and added:

  • 1 large carrot – finely diced

A little trick about keeping the fat down if you don’t have time to watch your pot, you can use a ham steak and one or two slices of bacon. The bacon will add just enough fat but won’t really add too many calories. The bacon can be fished out and discarded at the end of cooking, no one wants a limp piece of tasteless bacon anyways. I’ve also made this recipe using part of a smoked ham shank. It was really good, although I prefer my soup without the smoky taste. Ham shanks are cut from the shank end of the ham and tend to have a lot less fat.

I went about my day, decided to treat myself to some online games for a bit and let the crockpot do some more magic. In another hour or two the scent of split pea soup filled my home and I knew it was almost ready to eat. I gave it a few healthy stirs to break up the softened and disintegrating peas and fished out the ham bone. The bone was discarded as it really had nothing left to give to this world and was now, in a culinary sense, completely dead. I grabbed the bit of ham meat from the fridge I still had and sliced it into teeny tiny chunks since Thogg was still supposed to take it easy on his tummy. Stirring it in, I gave it a taste and added more salt and fresh ground pepper. I decided to give the peas another 1/2 hour to continue thickening and left the lid askew to help with some evaporation.

Another half hour later and I was at the dinner table. Poor Thogg would have to wait until tomorrow for this meal and settled in with another bowl of thick rice congee and some citrus and soy marinated tofu. I, on the other hand cracked open one last beer and enjoyed the fruits of the crockpot’s labor. This time it was a winter white again from Sam Adams. Pretty tasty indeed but nothing compared to my steaming bowl of split pea soup. It wasn’t quite as thick as it would be tomorrow (it always thickens considerably as it sits overnight) but it was mighty satisfying and delicious.

*A few health notes. Dried peas are full of potassium and fiber and other nutrients. They’re also a great source of complex carbohydrates (the slow burning non-blood-sugar-spiking type) and have a good amount of incomplete veggie protein. Adding whole grain bread or a little meat to this meal completes the protein requirements for most healthy individuals. Because of the potassium from the peas, even with this meal being fairly salty from the ham bone I found it to be a great diuretic, even better than caffeine. I’ll have to remember this the next time I’m feeling puffy or swollen. Also, while I do enjoy my beer and wine I don’t usually drink more than one a day. This was my treat to myself after all the stress and worry of spending several days in the hospital with my loving husband. Additionally, I’d made sure I didn’t have to drive anywhere that day.

For ease of use I’m including the complete list of ingredients here:

  • 1 still frozen ham bone from a previous holiday meal already trimmed of visible fat
  • 7 cups of water
  • 1 pound (about 2.5 cups) of dried split peas – picked over and rinsed
  • 1 medium to large onion – finely chopped
  • a little bit of olive oil
  • a small pinch of salt and several grinds black pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic – finely minced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme (or about 1/2 to 3/4 tsp dried)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 ribs of celery – chopped small
  • 1 large carrot – finely diced
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