Split Pea Soup with Homemade Pork Stock

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This soup was a happy accident.

Normally, I make split pea soup the way a lot of folks do: I simmer split peas in water with garlic, a handful of diced carrots and onions, and, of course, a ham hock. The ham hock gives the soup its signature smokey saltiness and deep flavor.

Now, when we got to the butcher, there wasn’t a ham hock to be found. They did, however, have a few lovely packages of fresh pork bones.

OK, I thought, these will do. I’ll brown the bones, then simmer them into a flavorful stock, and use that as the base for my soup.

The result? A wonderfully complex soup that gets a triple dose of piggy goodness from velvety pork stock, crisp fried bacon, and a handful of diced ham. It’s rich and meaty—with a subtle smokiness.

It was more work, but it was definitely worth it.

Split Pea Soup with Homemade Pork Stock: A note on salt

There are a few points in this recipe that call for a sprinkle or two of salt, to taste. If you’re unsure of how much to add, go light, keeping in mind that you’re going to add ham and bacon later on. You can always reseason the soup at the end if it needs more salt.

Split Pea Soup with Homemade Pork Stock

For the pork stock
1 Tbls. olive oil
2 lbs pork bones
kosher salt
10 cups water
3 fresh bay leaves
3 celery stalks, halved
1 onion, halved
1 head garlic, halved
1 bunch parsley stems
kosher salt

For the split pea soup
2 rashers bacon, diced
10 baby carrots, diced
1 shallot, minced
5 cups pork stock
1/2 lb. of split peas
1 tsp. garlic powder
kosher salt
black pepper to taste
1 cup diced ham

Split Pea Soup with Homemade Pork Stock: Make the pork stock

Start with fresh (i.e. not smoked), meaty pork bones. Depending on your butcher, these might be labeled “Pork Neck Bones.”

Add the olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot. Turn the heat on medium-high. Sprinkle the pork bones with salt and add them to the pot. Your goal here is to brown the bones all over.

Cook them until they’re brown and crisp on the bottom. Flip them over when they look about like this:

Continue turning the bones until they’re developed a handsome brown crust on all sides.

When the bones are brown all over, turn your heat down to low. After a minute or two, add the water. (Be careful of the steam.)

When you’ve added all the water, scrape at the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits. The water should start to take on a rich brown color, like this:

Raise the heat to high and bring the water to a boil. As the bones boil, they’ll release impurities and a foamy, opaque scum will rise to the surface of the water. It should look about like this:

Skim that off with a spoon and discard it.

Keep boiling and skimming for maybe 10 minutes or so, until no (or almost no) scum remains.

Toss in the bay leaves, onion, celery, garlic, and parsley stems. Give a stir to combine.

Cover the pot tightly. Turn the heat down low enough to maintain a good simmer without your pot boiling over. Let it bubble for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

After 1 1/2 hours, it should look about like this:

With tongs, remove all the bones and large veggie pieces. Discard them. Don’t fret about tossing this stuff. You’ve most likely cooked all the flavor and goodness out of the meat, so it’s done its job.

(If you’re not sure about this, taste the meat. If you still think it’s OK, reserve the bones, pick them clean, and add that meat back to the soup at the end.)

Once you’ve pulled out all the large pieces, your stock should look about like this:

Next, strain the stock quickly to remove any smaller debris. Set a strainer over a large bowl, and pour the stock through the strainer into the bowl. Set the bowl of stock aside for a few minutes.

Wipe out your stock pot with a few paper towels (or wash it quickly if it’s really mucky). Set it back on the stove over medium-high heat.

Add the diced bacon to the pot and fry, stirring occasionally, til brown and slightly crisp.

You want the bacon to be slightly crisp (not completely dark and brittle) like this:

If you have what looks like an excessive amount of bacon fat to you, drain some of it off. Toss in the shallot and carrot. Stir to coat with bacon fat.

Add 5 cups of the stock.

Toss in the split peas and give the soup a stir to combine everything.

Raise the heat to high and bring the soup up to a boil. When it’s boiling, lower the heat so the soup is just simmering, and cover it. Simmer covered, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour.

After about an hour, the split peas should have all but broken down. Your soup should be pea green, and fairly thick.

Add the diced ham and give it a stir to combine.

Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Ladle out into bowls and serve piping hot with hunks of crusty garlic bread. Enjoy!

Split Pea Soup with Homemade Pork Stock: A note on leftovers

This soup tends to thicken up considerably in the fridge. If you like, thin it out with a little leftover pork stock, water, or low-sodium chicken broth.


***
Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

Stonewall Kitchen, LLC

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Ya know, I’ve never been a huge fan of split pea soup, but I have to admit this recipe (and the photos!) has me craving it now 🙂 The pork stock is brilliant!

    -emily

  2. Hi Jessie!

    You’ve always great recipes and this is another yummy one.. love this split pea soup!
    Practically if you add all the wonderful photos, you’ll have a complete tasty video 😉

  3. You had me at bacon, Jessica. But all the beautiful photos, especially the one with the halved garlic head floating there and imparting its garlicky goodness, sealed the deal. There’s a chance of snow here in Chicago this weekend–and an even better chance of split pea soup!

  4. You know what I like best about this recipe? The price on the pork bones! Don’t get me wrong, the soup looks amazing, and I can’t wait to try this variation. I just don’t know if I will luck out like that and get that many bones for 2 bucks!

  5. What a lovely use for pork neck bones! I bought some to use for stock for Hot and Sour Soup, but think I might just make the split pea instead. If you crave the “smokey” flavor, you can always add a few drops of liquid smoke. Thanks for the recipe, and the fabulous pics!

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  7. Saved all the juices from pork ribs and chicken stock .I will clarify and bung in those little green things: Maybe mix them up in my crock pot . It is snowing here ..Andrew

  8. After some searches, I tried this very clear set of instructions for making the pork stock (from inexpensive “pork neck bones” which I previously passed by at the grocery), which became the base for a creamy potato-leek soup. Worked out quite well, I feel, with enough stock left to try something else that’s new.

    Thanks for this well thought-out and attractively presented recipe.

  9. Ah yes, the fragrant aroma of dirt cheap neck bones simmering away…I already know this is gonna be one helluva soup! Gonna add kielbasa stead of ham, just a personal preference. Great idea using the neck bones…gotta go, it’s straining time.

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