Ham shank or shanks to total 2 to 3 pounds*
12 cups water
1 whole onion, peeled and halved for flavoring stock
1 pound dried split peas, inspected (for duds and pebbles — no kidding) and rinsed
1 additional large onion, peeled and diced (about 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 cups)
2 – 3 carrots, washed, peeled, diced
1 – 2 ribs celery, washed, peeled, diced
4 or more cloves garlic, diced or sliced (if you like seeing them in the soup)
About 1 pound dark leafy greens (Swiss chard, kale, collards)**
2 T. olive oil
1-1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Optional: 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more depending on your taste)
Croutons (ready made or see recipe below)
Adapted from kitchenriffs.
* I’ve made this soup with ham hocks as well as with the leftover bone from a Christmas ham, which had some meat still clinging to it. If you use the latter, then be sure to have some leftover ham — about a cup or more, diced or shredded — to add to the soup in the final stages of the assembling. If you decide to use a shank (way better than ham hocks), you can still toss in the leftover ham bone to add even more flavor to the soup stock.
** I’ve used fresh spinach and kale. If you use spinach, the braising time will be very brief since the leaves are delicate. But if you use chard, collards, or kale, you’ll need to thoroughly cook the leaves. Of the two I’ve tried, kale has been the most tasty.
Don’t be put off by the number of steps in making this soup since you’ll have time to prep the peas,chop and sauteed the vegetables, braise the greens, and remove the meat from the bone and chop or shred the meat. Look over all the steps below to decide how you want to manage your time — early prep or prep as you go. Making soup is not like baking a cake; you have time to do things and can even take a break, as I did, after the shank had cooked for an hour.
1. Rinse ham shanks and place in a large pot with water. You should add enough water to make sure the shanks or hocks are nearly covered with water.
2. Add peeled and halved onion to the pot and bring to a simmer. Skim any scum that forms.
3. Simmer for one hour or so to develop the soup stock.
4. At this point, I remove the shanks or hocks and the onion. The original recipe calls for just adding peas at this point but I don’t like fishing for bones and pieces of meat in the green (but delicious) murk. Add peas that have been inspected and rinsed. When ham is cool enough to handle, remove the meat, discard the bones, and chop or shred the ham into bite-sized pieces.
5. While peas are cooking or earlier, peel and dice (1/4 to 1/2 inch) the additional onion; wash, peel and dice carrots; and wash, peel, and dice celery. Peel and mince or slice garlic.
6. Wash greens and remove overly large, woody stems. No need to dry greens. Chop leaves into squares of about one inch.
7. Heat deep casserole or Dutch oven or wok on medium and add oil. Add onions, carrots,celery; season with salt and pepper, and saute onions until they’re translucent.
8. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.
9. Add thyme and pepper flakes. Saute about 30 seconds; add greens.
11. Braise greens for 2 to 3 minutes for spinach, 5 to 10 minutes for tougher greens.
12. Once greens are done, add the onion, carrot, celery, greens mixture to the pea soup.
13. Add ham.
14. If the soup is very thick, you can add more water and adjust seasoning. Simmer for at least 30 minutes or longer until the peas are the desired consistency. This can range from the peas completely dissolved to soft but intact.
As you can see, I like my pea soup chunky. But if you want a smooth consistency, after it has cooled down some, you can use a stick blender or run it through a blender.
Note: This soup is total comfort food. It makes about 4 quarts so it will serve several people or you can portion it up and freeze for later. It also continues to thicken once it’s refrigerated, but then returns to a nice consistency once it’s heated. You also can add more water or chicken broth if you want a thinner soup.
1/3 of a baguette or several slices of oldish bread, crusts removed
3 T. olive oil
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. parsley
Preheat over to 300 degrees
For a baguette (crust remains), slice into rounds about 1/2 inch thick, cut each round into three strips, and then cut the strips into cubes. Toss with oil, garlic salt, and parsley. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spread the tossed cubes into a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn and bake another 15 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle a few croutons on each serving of soup.