For the new year I really wanted to make Sean Brock’s Hoppin’ John. But the peas I wanted have to be bought online and they would not have arrived in time. The black eyed peas that we cook traditionally on New Years Day are symbolic of coins. They are supposed to bring a prosperous new year. This split pea soup is my new years good luck substitute, it is after all the color of dollars. And if this soup is any indication of what the new year will be, then I guess 2015 is going to be incredible.
I learned something writing this blog post… it’s really difficult to photograph split pea soup so that it looks like more than a bowl of green. Usually garnishes add to the composition of food photography but this soup needs no garnishes – it is packed with flavor! The quality of the smoked ham hocks and chicken broth is extremely important. I attribute this soup’s awesomeness to the smoked ham hocks I bought from Sumrell’s Country Sausage. It is a tiny, questionable appearing butcher shop in Ayden, NC. But the meat is fabulous and of course local.
This soup reminds me of my grandmother. As a kid I remember my parents would love eating her split pea soup, I thought it looked pretty awful. But as an adult, I tasted the soup, and I have been seeking that flavor ever since. The homemade chicken broth and high quality local smoked ham hocks generate an impressive depth and intense umami flavor. I have been making a lot of chicken ramen this winter and have been using my leftover broth in soups.
I am serving this soup with cider from Virginia. I recently visited Albemarle Ciderworks just outside of Charlottesville and fueled my addiction to cider. The tasting room is beautiful, set in the rolling hills of VA. All of their varieties are wonderful and so different. I am currently sipping their Virginia Winesap which is packed with wholesome apple flavor and super crisp. You could serve this with chardonnay or whatever your favorite white wine is as well.
Split Pea Soup
1 lb split peas
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion diced
2 carrots diced
1 celery stock diced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large garlic clove, diced
1 bay leaf
2 quarts homemade chicken stock
2 lb smoked ham hocks
Place the split peas in a bowl with enough water to cover.
In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery; season with freshly ground black pepper. Cook the vegetables until they soften, 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
Drain the split peas, add them to the vegetables in the pot. Add in the bay leaf, chicken stock, and ham hocks. Stir everything, bring this to a boil over high heat. When the soup is boiling, decrease the heat to low and cover with a lid. Simmer for 1 hour.
Remove the ham hocks from the soup and set aside. Continue to cook the soup for 30 minutes more until all the vegetables have broken down and the soup is thick. There is some meat on the ham hocks which you can pull off when they are cool and add to the soup if you like.