Thursday, January 21, 2016

Mom's Infamous Split Pea Soup

Have you ever been to Buellton, California?  If you are driving up the coast (101 freeway toward the central coast) you must stop for lunch at Andersens, especially if you have children!  It just happens to be a great childhood memory of mine, and many others.

Hap-Pea and Pea-Wee, the friendly mascots of Pea Soup Andersen’s were my reasons for stopping.  I'll tell you more about them in a minute.

Check out this post that tells you all about Split Pea Andersen's and shares their famous recipe.

One summer my grandparents invited me to spend a couple of weeks traveling around California with them.  I remember being in 4th or 5th grade and was so excited about a trip with Grandma and Grandpa.  My Grandpa taught me how to dive in the hotel swimming pool.  He was so cool.  I saw beautiful country with beaches and redwoods.  So many great memories.  

On this trip they insisted that we stop for a bowl of pea soup at Andersens.  As a kid that didn't sound very appealing.  "Pea Soup...I hope they have lots of crackers!" I thought to myself.  Once in the restaurant I became a little more excited about the place.  It was quite charming.  My grandparents ordered the obligatory bowl of pea soup for me and my next thought was, "I hope it's not a very big bowl."

When the server placed the bowl of split pea soup in front of me, my Grandparents said, "There is a surprise at the bottom of the bowl.  You must eat all of your soup to see the surprise!"  The suspenseful thrill of a surprise at the bottom encouraged me to dig in.  

The more soup I ate the clearer the surprise was.  The cartoon characters of Hap-Pea and Pea-wee decorated the bottom of the bowl!  I remember being so proud of myself for first; eating a bowl of pea soup and second; for uncovering those lovable pea soup guys. 

I learned later in life that this pea soup was one of my grandmother's favorite meals.  She came to the United States as a child from Holland.  This soup reminded her of home.

She had a recipe from "home" that was very similar to Andersen's pea soup.  The only difference in her recipe was a Danish difference...potatoes.  Small diced potatoes were always added to her soup.  And I love it that way.  Gives the soup a little more texture and flavor.  She also adds very small diced carrots and bits of ham.  I think that Andersen's also offered soup with those ingredients as well.

My mom now makes the famous split pea soup and I'm always grateful when she shares.  She has agreed to let me share our family recipe, very similar to Andersens.

2 cups green split peas

1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp. Bon Appetite

2 to 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 tsp. salt (to start with, add more after tasting)
pepper to taste
3 to 4 slices of ham, cubed in small pieces.

Sort the peas in mesh strainer, removing any stones or impurities.  Rinse them clean.

Combine the peas, celery, carrot, and in a soup pot and cover with 2 quarts (8 cups) of water.  After 10 min. of boiling add potatoes.

Reduce heat to a low simmer. Let the mixture cook for another 25-30 minutes till the peas are completely tender. Towards the end of cooking, add the Bon Appetite, then add salt and pepper to taste. I use about 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper. Use less if you're sodium-sensitive.

Skim the foam off or add 1 tsp. butter to dissolve (another danish secret).

Strain the peas through a food mill or a fine mesh sieve, if desired.  I prefer texture to my soup so I leave out this step.

If you strained the peas bring the soup to a quick boil once more on the stovetop.  Add more ham pieces for flavor, then remove from heat immediately. If the soup seems too thick, add some hot water to thin it out to the desired consistency.

Serve hot.  I like to garnish with crackers or croutons.  Keep leftover soup in a sealed Tupperware container.  When the soup is chilled, it will solidify.  Adding a little water and stirring as you reheat will help the soup to heat up more smoothly.

I enjoyed the soup and the walk down memory lane!

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