This soup reminds me of childhood - of dark, frosty afternoons playing outside in the snow with Debby Plunkett, and coming in with frozen fingers and toes to this delicious soup. My Dad is full blooded Acadian, and as a child, he lived in French-speaking Canada with his parents. He absolutely loves this soup. Its one of those dishes that my Mom would cook regularly in the winter since it is so filling, so delicious and so inexpensive -- and most importantly, Dad adores pea soup. When I married and had a household of my own, I developed my own recipe, and my Dad always felt that mine was even better than his mother's or mine. Turns out that my pastor's favorite soup is.... you guessed it! French Canadian split pea soup! So, I made him a batch last Wednesday on the anniversary of his ordination. He was in hog heaven.... without the hog, of course, since the recipe was veganized!
If you want a canned split pea soup, the best is Habitant brand, but it is found mainly in New England where many French Canadians have settled. There are so many ways to make split pea soup - when we lived in California, we were exposed to the Scandinavian version and love that as well, so in a pinch, we'll eat a can of Andersen's. If you are ever in Solvang, California (and I highly recommend that you visit there - its a blast!), go to the town next door called Buellton, and visit Andersen's factory restaurant. Be sure to get the never-ending bowl of pea soup with all the toppings. Yummy!
I like to use a combination of split peas and whole dried peas for this soup to give it a more authentic texture, but it is increasingly difficult to find the whole peas. I prefer to make this in the crockpot for ease, but it can be made in the traditional way on top of the stove, or even in the pressure cooker as long as you are careful to not fill the cooker more than half full.
I'm naming this one after my Dad, Edmour Edgar Edward Joseph Babineau.
Eddie's Favorite French Canadian Split Pea Soup
3 C dried split peas, picked over and rinsed well (or combination of split and whole peas, the way Dad likes it)
10 C water
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 heaping tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 smoked ham hock or 1 tsp liquid smoke
Secret ingredient that truly makes a lot of difference: 1 tsp sugar
Put all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on med-low all day or overnight. If you used the smoked ham hock, shred it and return to the pot before serving. Remember to fish out the bay leaves once the soup is cooked!
To veganize: Leave out the ham hock and stir in 1 tsp of liquid smoke instead. Easy peasy!
You can cook it on top of the stove as well, just slowly simmer everything, stirring occasionally, and adding water a quarter cup at a time if it gets too thick. It will probably take about an hour to cook if you are using only split peas. If you are using whole peas as well, it will take about twice as long.
If using a pressure cooker, make sure its an 8 quart one and fill only half full. Cook 10 minutes at 15 pounds and reduce instantly under running water. Don't open the steam cock, because it might clog - use the water release method.
In a culinary homage to both sides of my family, I served this soup with two kinds of focaccia: tomato and cheese, and mushroom and rosemary.
Sorry, no pix for this - I never make my dinner guests wait for their dinner while I take a photo, though my pastor would have understood, I think.