Split Pea Soup, Porked Up


Although I did not live through the depression, I was taught to waste not, want not.  This principle, passed down through the generations, has followed me through my life’s journey.  The contents of my freezer  is proof positive that the lesson is deeply ingrained in my psyche and often serves as inspiration for some of my finest culinary creations.  I am talking about  carcasses of various animals and fowl,  fish bones, shrimp shells and the like.  This creation, an old classic made new again, was born primarily from the presence of a ham bone just begging to be simmered among aromatics and made into something memorable.

I was thinking of something with beans when I spied the split peas.  We have a long bittersweet history this legume and I.  Our relationship began when I was a young adult and very poor.  My roommate, who was in the same poverty boat as I, worked at a bagel bakery and there was a natural foods store a short distance from our house.  The combination of misshapen bagels that she brought home daily and the inexpensive availability of bulk split peas at the local market made for a magic combination of cheap and nutritious that sustained us for many months.  On a journey down memory lane, I decided to take the very meager recipe of onion, carrot, split peas and water and pork it up a bit.  Three different cuts from the pig, smoked and delicious, a splash of dry sherry and rich chicken stock (homemade, of course, from those chicken bones in the freezer), elevated this humble dish to a place I never dreamed possible in my youth.

Totally improvising, I took the object of my inspiration, the ham bone, paired it with other flavor enhancers and the result was fabulous.  Here is how it went down.






SPLIT PEA SOUP, PORKED UP                                        Serves 6-8

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

This is a dressed up version of a comfort classic. Like grandma’s, only better!

4 slices apple wood smoked bacon (I used Neuske’s)

2 small onions, chopped

4 small carrots, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

6 oz. smoked sausage, quartered and sliced (I used Neuske’s smoked kielbasa)

2 bay leaves

1 ham bone

1 lb. split peas

6c chicken stock, plus more to adjust thickness, if necessary

½ c dry sherry

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. In a large heavy bottom pot, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon and reserve for later use.
  2. Add the chopped onion and carrots to the bacon drippings and cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.
  3. Add the smoked sausage (kielbasa) and cook until it begins to brown slightly.
  4. Add the bay leaves, ham bone and split peas and stir coating everything thoroughly with the drippings.
  5. Add the stock and sherry. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 2hrs.or until the peas have softened and are cooked through.  Remove the ham bone, pull any remaining meat and return the meat to the soup.  Remove the bay leaves, discard.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Thin with additional stock to desired consistency.
  6. Serve hot garnished with crumbled bacon.

Note: Soups are frequently better the day after so do not be afraid to make ahead. This soup may need additional thinning if it sits, so heat it up and adjust as needed.

If you are a fan of pork, as I am, nothing is better than pig, three ways.  What better way to “Praise the Lard!” Joking aside, a little smokiness is a giant flavor enhancer for the often flavorless and lowly legume.


A very satisfying meal was created out of a little of this, a little of that.  Before you discard those remains, ask yourself if they can be repurposed.  It not only stretches your culinary creativity but has the added advantage of being easy on the pocketbook.

Until next time, turn your freezer into a bone graveyard and keep spreading the love, one creative dish at a time.  From my freezer to yours, make it into something wonderful!  Jeanne




11 responses to “Split Pea Soup, Porked Up

  1. One can always expect split pea soup at our house immediately following Easter with the remains of the ham and of course the ham bone.

  2. Try pairing it with a couple more pig parts, I think you will love the result. I do not remember my Mom making split pea soup but it sure played a huge part in my lean early twenties shortly after I moved to CA. Thought I would never eat it again. Thanks for your comments.

  3. I had to make Split Pea soup once a week back in the 70s when Russ and I worked at a living history museum, Heritage Hill State Park in Green Bay…brought back memories. Russ loves peas, but I’m not a fan. I always know if one is hiding under my 15 mattresses.

  4. Elizabeth Palmer

    I do enjoy a good split pea soup. Thanks for reminding me that I haven’t made any in a while; it might be in the rotation for the upcoming week. And anything from Neuske’s is a surefire way to “kick it up a notch!”

    • Hi Elizabeth. I agree about Neuske’s products. So good! Have you visited there store in Whittenberg? The smells are amazing. Hope you like the soup recipe. Let me know if you make it. Thanks for the comments. I look forward to hearing from you. Jeanne

      • Elizabeth Palmer

        Jeanne, I made the soup for supper tonight. I used a ham hock and bacon from Wyttenbach’s Meats in Prairie du Sac (I had both in the freezer.) It was very satisfying; we enjoyed it with toasted sourdough bread, and a glass of Wollersheim Dry Riesling. Perfect antidote to the blustery cold day! It’s still soup and stew weather in WI!

        Haven’t been to Neuske’s store yet; will have to make the pilgrimage.

      • So glad you liked it, Elizabeth. Thanks for letting me know. My friends and I do an annual trip to Neuske’s store and load up on their delicious products. I have to say, you also cannot go wrong at Whittenbachs. this is another one of my haunts and it is a bit more local. Sounds like you had a real comfort meal. Today really called for it. Where’s spring? Thanks again for the feedback. Jeanne

  5. I for sure will be giving this recipe a try. Not only looked delicious but easy recipe to follow.

    • Thanks, Lani. I hope you like it as much as we did. I try to make the recipes easy to follow so I appreciate your feedback. Let me know if you make it and how you liked it, Thanks again, Jeanne

  6. Jeanne, I made this Sunday and Michael and I both thought it was AMAZING!! This is a keeper and repeater for sure.

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