My kiddos have been complaining about the cold. They know that they live in New England. They know that it is January. They see the ponds covered with ice and the ground white with snow. They know and they see. But in their hearts, they are still in sunny California.
It was 5 degrees (Fahrenheit) this morning on the way to school. I must admit, it was a little brisk. It was (according to their friends in CA) around 50 this morning in San Jose.
In San Jose, I never made split pea soup. It needs to be pretty chilly for me to want it - oh yeah, I cook to please myself. I gave up asking my family what they want for dinner a long time ago. But today I want it. Yes, yes I do.
To start a good split pea soup, you need a ham bone. Many of you had a ham for Christmas or New year, right? Save the bone. If you didn't save the bone, and you live in a populated area that has modern conveniences like a Honey-baked Ham Store, you can actually go into this handy dandy store and buy a ham bone. That's right. I have done it. A couple of times, right after their lunch rush, they just gave me the ham bone for free. Cool.
Anyhow, save that bone.
Split Pea Soup
1 ham bone and enough water to cover it
1 - 1 1/2 pounds dried split peas
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 cups onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups potato, diced
1-2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
Place the peas in a large pot. Cover them with water by 2 inches. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 1 hour.
While the peas are soaking, put the ham bone in another pot. Cover with water. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.
After an hour, drain the peas and let them wait in the colander until you are ready for them. They won't mind. Wipe out the large pot you were soaking the peas in (unless you want to use another pot which I don't). In this pot, melt the butter. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, until the veggies soften. Add the garlic and potato and cook, stirring for another minute.
Take the ham bone out of the water - save the water - and set on a cutting board.
Add the drained peas, salt and peppers and the bay leaves and thyme.
To the pea mixture, add 4-5 quarts of the ham water, depending on how many peas you used.
Pull off any bits of ham meat from the bone and add it to the pot.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender, about 1 hour. Taste it, you might need to add more salt. I will sometimes simmer it for 2-3 hours. It tastes better the longer you cook it. You can add water if it becomes too thick or dry.