Apolopeas and Ham for Radio Silence

Now, I didn't figure this was going to be the active-est of blogs, but I didn't expect myself to tumble into THIS kind of silence. Oopie.

As penance, I hand you probably my favorite soup, during one of your last chances to make those really long-cook winter meals.

I give you, my Split Pea and Ham Soup.

Or as it is now known, my Apolopeas and Ham Soup.

My husband does not share my adoration for beans and lentils and peas, and I won't tell you what he thinks they look like cooked, so this recipe is for me alone. This means that I have made an enormous vat of soup all for myself. Luckily, soup always freezes. Now, I've never made split pea soup until now as most every recipe I've come across requests that I use a ham hock for flavor and meat. I had yet to ever see something in the grocery store which called itself a ham hock and therefore I never made it, feeling that boiling a hunk of cooked, smoked ham would be somehow inadequate.

(Though, now having made pea/bean soup with both a ham hock and a hunk of cooked ham, I can tell you that the hock does lend a certain smoky flavor and the shredded, unprocessed meat gives the soup a far more traditional mouth feel. A rustic feel, you might say. I think it’s lovely, but the more processed, pre-cooked hams are not awful by a long shot.)

So I pined after the perfect split-pea concoction from a can for years, never finding it, and wishing, strangely, that Tim Horton's would just sell me theirs. (I'm a salt junkie; I'm sorry.)

A few days after we moved to our new home in Toronto, I went visiting the Culinarium. Amongst their gorgeous products (and produce), I saw, in the bottom right corner of a freezer, a triangular shape wrapped in butcher's paper labeled 'ham hock'. I knew, immediately, what I had to do.

Now, I need to explain to you that I bought this enormous hunk of meat without thinking about any recipe. When I got it home and realized I'd purchased a 3 1/2 pound hock and that it was too big to even fully fit in my soup pot, I was a little daunted. That said, I managed, and I will tell you just how so based on my experience. But I might recommend you look at getting a bigger pot or a smaller piece of meat. As it is, I have a bunch of leftover meat and four cups of beautiful, rich ham stock.

So, without further ado...

Split Pea Soup with Ham

Now, you are being warned--this is one of those recipes that I did not measure as I went. I am guesstimating the amounts I think I used here. If something looks wrong to you, adjust as necessary.

This is a half-day recipe for sure, if not longer, depending on your belly's noise levels. It is, however, a half-day recipe that doesn't need a lot of tending, so you can probably do as I did and get on with household chores in the mean time.

3 1/2 lbs ham hock
2 cups split green peas
3 smallish carrots
1/2 large onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 bay leaves
splash of liquid smoke
ham stock
salt and pepper to taste

In the morning, start your stock. My hock stood up out of the pot by a few inches so I filled it with as much water as I dared and got it bubbling. Top off the water every couple of hours if necessary to get as much of the hock submerged as possible. Eventually, the meat at the bottom softens and you can push the whole thing down a little more (I never quite got the whole thing in, however). Let it simmer away, skimming occasionally, for approximately three hours or more. Remove hock from the stock and let it cool. Pour out the liquid into a separate container and reserve.

When the hock has cooled enough to handle, pull off and dice up 1 1/4 cups of meat. Reserve the rest of the meat for another use.

Dice the carrots, onion and garlic. Sautee in the butter for five minutes to soften. Please note I specify unsalted butter. The ham is already plenty salty. You probably don’t really need to add to it, and this is coming from a salt addict. Dump the rinsed split peas into the pot, the meat, the bay leaves and the smoke.

Pour in four and a half cups of stock and four cups of water. Stir everything up, cracking pepper over the whole lot. Resist adding salt until near the end so you can get an idea of how much the stock has flavored things. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer for approximately an hour or more, or until the peas have cooked and disintegrated to your desired consistency (I prefer the whole thing to be very soft and not highly textured, so I cook it for a long time).

This soup will thicken again as it cools; add water back in as necessary.

And, as always, the really awful picture to go with it.

(Do you like my staging? How I didn't even think to try to get this oozing green mash out of the messy pot?)