This is one of my favorite fall soups. It reminds of chilly fall days during my childhood. When I make a hearty soup like this, I always start by cooking a little bit of bacon in the soup pot. It adds a nice base layer of flavor to the soup. If you’re concerned about fat content, you don’t have to do this step… but it does taste better with bacon! Well, what doesn’t taste better with bacon? If the soup consistency is on the thinner side, I like to add whole cannellini or great northern beans to the soup. It may seem odd, but it’s very good… at least I think so.
- 2 cups green split peas, picked through – discard any small stones
- 3 slices applewood smoked bacon (good quality)
- 2 TBSP butter
- 2 carrots, small chop
- 2 celery stalks, small chop (same size as carrots)
- 1 medium onion, peeled and small chop
- Kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 sprigs of thyme (plus more for garnish)
- 2 quarts chicken stock ((homemade or organic store-bought)
- 2 pounds smoked ham hocks + chopped ham steak if desired
- 1 or 2 cans, great northern or cannellini beans, drained
- Extra virgin olive oil.
Pour split peas in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let them soak a few minutes.
Place bacon slices in the bottom of a large soup pot and cook until crisp. Set bacon on paper towels. Carefully wipe interior of pot so it removes most but not all of the bacon fat. You’ll want about a TBSP of bacon fat left in the pot. Take care while doing this as it will be hot. I usually use wadded up paper towels.
Add the butter to the oil, then saute the carrots, onion and celery. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Stir and saute until vegetables soften, about 5.5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Drain the peas and add them to the pot. Add bay leaf, thyme, broth and ham hocks. Stir and bring the liquid to a buil over high heat. Stir again then lower the heat, cover and simmer for an hour.
Using tongs, remove the ham hocks from the soup and set aside. Continue cooking soup until all the peas have broken down and soup has thickened. Regulate thickness by adding more broth if it becomes too thick.
Remove all meat from the ham hocks (after they’ve cooled down), shred the meat and set it aside. Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs with a slotted spoon. add ham hock back to the soup. If you want more chopped ham in your soup, add chopped ham steak as desired. Add optional cannellini or great northern beans. Stir. Season the soup with sea salt and pepper. You may not want as much salt as the ham has a lot of salt in it. Just season to taste.
Crumble bacon into small bits. To serve ladle some of the soup into a bowl and drizzle a little olive oil on top. Then scatter some fresh thyme leaves and some of the bacon crumbles on top.