Mom’s Split Pea Soup

Don’t ask for cheese

My mother made a great split pea soup.  Nothing fancy, just great tasting. She did what many people do and saved the ham bone from a previous dinner of baked smoked ham to add to this soup. It adds great flavor and you get some left over bits of smoked ham in your pea soup as a bonus. I usually wrap the ham bone well after the smoked ham dinner and place it in the freezer until I’m ready to make this soup. The ham bone will keep for months if you wrap it well. If you don’t have a leftover smoked ham bone just substitute two smoked ham hocks that you can purchase at any supermarket. When the soup is cooked you can remove the bone and fat from the ham hock and cut up the meat to add to the soup.

I added a little of my own touch to this soup, just to bring it up a notch. I use a quarter pound of bacon and fry it up crisp. The rendered bacon fat is left in to saute the carrots and onion, adding even more flavor. When I serve this soup I crumble the saved crisp bacon bits on top of the soup. It adds an incredible burst of flavor and crunchy texture to this delicious pea soup. Don’t omit the bacon or bacon fat, it’s the secret ingredient. Split pea soup and smoked pork were just meant to be!

My boys love this soup the following day, when it becomes really thick. I think it’s the only soup they don’t add grated cheese to. But I don’t want to give them any ideas. They pour on the grated cheese when I make my home made chicken soup. I usually ask them if they would like a little soup with their cheese.

My boys, Michael and Joseph, can become creatures of habit sometimes. One evening, when they were young,  we went out to dinner at a Kosher Deli/Restaurant nearby in Montvale New Jersey. We sat down and the waitress took our order for Matzo ball soup and Pastrami on rye sandwiches with a side of  home made knishes. We all love Kosher deli. When she brought us our Matzo ball soup, my son Michael did what he would normally do when eating something close to chicken soup….he asked the waitress for some grated Parmesan cheese. I thought the waitress was going to have a cow. She looked at him and said, “sorry dear, this is a kosher restaurant, we don’t serve dairy with meat.”

I loved the moment. My son looked at me with his wide eyes and shrugged shoulders and said, “I didn’t know!”   There was a time when between the ages of 13 and 16 Michael  spent more time in temple then he did going to church with all the Jewish friends he had and all the Bar Mitzvahs he was invited to. You would have thought that with all his multi-cultural experience  he would have known that little rule. But the temptation of adding grated cheese to his soup was just too much of a Pavlovian moment for him.

Mom’s Split Pea Soup

  • 1/4 pound bacon, diced
  • 1 medium onion,diced
  • 5 medium carrots,  peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 pound dried split peas, rinsed
  • 3 quarts of water plus more if necessary
  • 1 smoked ham bone, with some ham left on
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a large heavy dutch oven or soup pot cook the bacon over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp and transfer to a small dish.

Pour off all but 1/4 cup bacon fat and cook the onions, garlic and carrots, stirring, until soft.

Add the remaining ingredients,  and simmer, partially covered, for about 1  hour.

With a pair of tongs, carefully remove the ham bone and place on a cutting board to cool. Discard the fat and bone. Cut up the meat into little pieces and add to the soup. Discard the bay leaf.  Continue to cook for another hour, uncovered until thickened. There is usually no need for added salt.

Just before you serve the soup, crumble the bacon and sprinkle over the soup.

You can add croutons if you like.

I keep the bacon in a small zip lock bag in the refrigerator and use it for the left over soup as well.


About Peter Bocchieri

Peter was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and is a second generation Italian-American. He has a degree in Journalism from Long Island University and is an avid photographer, gardener and pet owner. Now that Peter is retired, he is relaxing at his home in North East Pennsylvania and cooking for his sons, Michael and Joseph, family and friends. Peter's passion for food was inspired by his Mother's and Grandmother's cooking, but at the age of 10 Peter felt he could do it better himself, so he did.
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