If you had told me as a child that I would not only grow to love, but also become an aficionado at making Split Pea & Ham Soup, I would have laughed and laughed. Seriously? That green sludge that made its debut in 1973's The Exorcist? Er, I don't think so.
Flash forward 34 years to 2007 and I suddenly start whipping up quarts of this delight for friends, family and strangers.
Friends wise, it was Robert and Sandra Naugler who first shared their recipe with me. Later, "Split Pea Smackdown" competitions amongst our gang were common to determine the tastiest version. And most recently, I overheard a neighbor (whom I didn't even know) talking about making a ham and actually asked if I could have the bone (with a promise to share the finished product). I'm not sure...I believe his name is Mark, but don't hold me to that.
Robert & Sandra (1963-2021) Naugler, myself and my sweetie, Tom Secino, celebrating my 46th birthday in Portsmouth, NH. (Scamps, the wonder pup, is hiding in my doggie purse.)
Split pea soup is infamous for the hurling scene in 1973's The Exorcist. Between her spinning head and horrifying visage, the pea soup was an effective touch, but as an ersatz chef, I have to wonder the permanent damage done to this delicious and nutritious meal-in-a-pot. It offers up to 11 grams of protein in a serving and is a great source of fiber, potassium and vitamin K. Granted, sodium can be an issue, hence why my recipe does not call for adding any while cooking (a crack of sea salt when serving brightens things up just perfectly).
But back to my first exposure to this recipe...Robert & Sandra Naugler. We met the "Dog-lers" (owners of black labs, Basil and Bucca) back in 2005 after yet another parade-closing-down-the-streets-in-Newburyport. Seriously. You can't swing a cat without some complement of streets being closed for a parade...Yankee Homecoming, The Bed Race, The Santa Parade, assorted road races and craft fairs...the list is endless.
Unknown to one another, but sitting side-by-side, Robert and I separately lamented this constant disruption to bartender Lynn at The Park Lunch and the rest, as they say, is history. Together, we socialized, vacationed and, ultimately, grew apart over a number of years.
But when Tom and I made the decision to move to Florida, it was, oddly enough, Robert and Sandra who purchased our home. A lot of details were happening in very short order. Specifically, we needed to pack, arrange a 1500-mile move and, this is key, find a place to live! Fortunately the real estate Gods smiled upon us and we secured our condo in lovely Berkshire Lakes, Naples, Florida.
We left Newburyport before the closing, so our interactions with Robert and Sandra were minimal. They moved in in the Spring of 2021. Sadly, Sandra unexpectedly took ill and passed away that summer. Robert is still in the condo and sharing it with a couple of roommates.
In a way, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the many changes in my life this past year and a half. The move was an epic endeavor, Sandra's dying and on Christmas Day, 2021, I spoke to my sweet brother, ChrisTurner, in the morning, only to learn he died later that day. I'm still heartbroken at the loss of my brother and my friend.
2021 was a year of exciting opportunities and terrific sadness, but it was the loss of ChrisTurner that prompted me to start this blog. I've always found peace in the kitchen, now I've found an outlet to share my favorite recipes and memories. Thank you, kind readers, for joining me in this endeavor.
Split Pea & Ham Soup
Very, very good..rich, yet considerably lighter than most versions of this comfort food classic…but a couple of important tips…only use low/no sodium broth (if you’ve read any of my recipes, I’m a big Kitchen Basics fan…do not use Swanson, College Inn and others…even the low sodium versions are much too salty for this recipe) and pick up 3-4 ham hocks for extra flavor. Additionally, be sure to truly mince your carrots and onions…it you have a food processor or a “slap-type-chopper” this is a great application for using it. Lastly, I rough chop half the ham, grind the rest.
1 pound dried green split peas
4 cups salt-free, boxed chicken stock
5 cups water
3 ham hocks (4 if you can find them) OR small bone-in picnic ham
2 pounds whole, boneless, smoked ham
3 ribs celery (use the heart, particularly the leaves, not the outer ribs)
3 tablespoon fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 large carrots, finely diced
1 leek (white/light green part only), rinsed and sliced into half moons
Rinse the split peas in a strainer. Combine with stock and water in a large Dutch over. Bring to a boil.
Add ham hocks, boneless ham (whole), celery, 1 tablespoon parsley and basil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Melt butter/olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add carrots, onion and leek. Cook until wilted, about 10 minutes. Add to soup pot. Simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove soup from heat. Remove and discard ham hocks (if using bone-in picnic ham, save any good looking meat and use). Remove whole, boneless ham and cut or shred meat to small pieces. (I often do a mix of minced and slightly larger, bite size pieces). Return meat to pot.