Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Split Pea and Ham Soup

I have fond memories of split pea soup from my childhood. My mother made it frequently, flavored with a meaty falling-apart ham hock. I made split pea soup last year and while it was good, it wasn’t the split pea soup of my memory. So I kept searching for a better technique.

With this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, I’ve found something really great. While the peas are the flavor focus, this soup is nice and meaty. Instead of ham hocks, it uses ham steak, which is easier to deal with and yields more meat without adding a lot of fat. But the real innovation here is using bacon to flavor the broth. It’s a really great idea, giving the meaty smokiness that only bacon can deliver.

The recipe suggests serving the soup with buttery croutons, which sounds delicious, but I went the simpler, more nostalgic route and used saltine crackers. The soup thickened a lot after the first day, so if you have soup left over and don’t want it really thick, add some water when reheating.

Split Pea and Ham Soup
From Split Pea and Ham Soup, America’s Test Kitchen

2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
7 cups water
1 ham steak (about 1 lb.), skin removed, cut into quarters
¼ lb. thick-cut bacon slices
1 lb. green split peas, picked through to remove any stones and rinsed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1 rip celery, cut into ½ inch pieces (about 1 cup)
Fresh ground black pepper
Saltine crackers (optional, or make your own buttery croutons, such as those for the Canlis Salad)

1. Heat a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Add butter and cook until foam subsides. Add onion and ½ tsp. salt and sauté, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add water, ham steak, bacon, peas, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a gentle bubble, stirring to prevent peas from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Reduce heat to low, cover pot and summer until the peas are tender, about 45 minutes.

2. Remove the ham steak pieces, cover them to prevent drying out and set aside. Stir the carrots and celery into the soup and continue to simmer, covered, another 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the peas have broken down.

3. Shred the ham and add back to the soup. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs, bay leaves and bacon slices. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with buttery croutons, crackers or other appropriate accompaniments.


  1. Thank you, America's Test Kitchen, for perfecting split pea and ham soup. This is a great recipe. Thanks for making it, dear!

  2. You're welcome. I'll happily make it again sometime.