This is a soup I’ve made every year since I moved to New York. I don’t know if its the chill in the air that calls me to make it or the autumn craving for earthy goodness, but either way, this soup has been a wonderful standby. I like to make a big pot, spooning individual servings into my Tupperware for lunch all week and then freezing the rest. This version is made with ham hocks (vs. bacon as you often see,) which gives it all of its character. I suppose you could try it without the ham hocks, but don’t yell at me if it doesn’t wow you.
The process for making this soup couldn’t be simpler. In some butter in a large pot, I added the chopped celery, carrot, and onion until softened.
Next I placed the ham hocks on their vegetable bed and added the marjoram. A quick minute in the pot, and then I added the dried split peas and water. Yes, water. Not chicken or vegetable stock. Trust me: the ham hocks will give you all of the porky base you need. Up to this point, I’ve added no salt. After bringing the whole pot to a boil and then simmering for at least 30 minutes, I like to check for seasoning. In this case, I found that while the stock had wonderful flavor–it needed added richness and salt. So I popped in 2 chicken bouillon cubes.
After exactly one hour and 10 minutes, as the recipe calls for, the split peas were totally mushy and falling apart and the broth had reduced by about an inch and a half down the rim of the pot. This reduction really concentrates the flavor. I then removed the hocks from the pot and shredded any meat I could gather off of them. I’m always amazed at how little edible “meat” there is on these babies and how long it takes to chop off the bones. I ended up with about a handful. Pick through this meat carefully, as much of it could have too much fat or membrane still attached. Set the meat aside, as you will be adding it back to the pot after pureeing the soup. You could totally discard the hocks whole if you like and skip this step–the soup will have completely taken on their flavor.
The original recipe calls for only pureeing half of the soup, but I like to puree it all–I like the consistently smooth texture. I did this with my hand-held immersion blender, but any blender or food processor will do. I then added the meat back to the pot, stirred, and served in soup bowls. No garnish required.
Split Pea Soup
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped peeled carrots
2 pounds smoked pork hocks
2 teaspoons dried leaf marjoram
2 cups green split peas
10 cups water
Optional: 2 chicken bouillon cubes
Melt butter in heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and carrots. Sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add pork and marjoram; stir 1 minute. Add peas, then water, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover pot; simmer soup until pork and vegetables are tender peas are falling apart, stirring often, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. About halfway into cooking, taste for seasoning. If it needs salt, pop in the bouillon cubes or season with salt.
Transfer hocks to bowl. Puree soup in batches in blender or with an immersion blender. Return to pot. Cut pork off bones. Dice pork; return pork to soup. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate until cold, then cover. Rewarm before serving.)