Slow-Cooker Split Pea Soup with Pork Hocks
As we explored the eastern shores of Newfoundland early last summer, we often found ourselves in a “pea soup” situation as the fog rolled in.
While exploring the Newfoundland town of Twillingate, we found the Crow’s Nest Cafe and a different kind of pea soup. That hearty bowl was the perfect capper to a day of hiking and iceberg watching. Or maybe it was just perfect soup.
Either way, I can’t just dash off to Twillingate (a slow, winding, potholed 455-kilometre drive from St. John’s) when I’ve got a hankering. There is a half-full bag of dried split peas in the cupboard, suggesting I’ve tried to make it once before.
I guess this time I ought to try to make something as memorable as the Crow’s Nest Cafe’s soup. It was so thick the spoon could almost stand up in it. It had a decent little kick of heat. And it was rich.
I did a bit of research and best as I can figure, a really good split pea soup needs to start with a hunk of bone-in pork, such as ham bones or hocks. Pork hocks were plentiful and cheap at our grocer, so that’s what I bought.
Not without some trepidation.
This is an odd piece of meat best described as the part of a pig’s leg that is below the knee and above the foot. It is loaded with connective tissue, ligaments, muscle fibre and, according to torontorealfood.com, “uber flavour.”
As it turns out, all those descriptions are correct. It’s a bit grisly to work with, but oh my heaven, it did give the depth (and tasty morsels of tender pork) that I was looking for in this soup. I didn’t look hard for a smoked hock, but if you can find one (or smoke one yourself), do it! I can only imagine that flavour would be amaze-balls.
I mashed together a few recipes — a slow-cooker version from Chateleine, one from a website called The Hippie Triathlete, and at least one other source for ideas on spices. The end result was delicious on Day 1, but was truly spectacular on Day 2. Do yourself a favour and make this soup a day ahead, you won’t regret it.
Kitchen Castoff (plus New and Unusual) Ingredients used
Green split peas; pork hock
This is how we did it
- 450g package dried green split peas
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 3 cups water
- 3 celery stalks, thickly sliced
- 3 carrots, sliced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning (or make your own with 1/2 tsp each of dried basil and oregano, 1/4 tsp each of rosemary, onion powder and garlic powder, and a pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 500 g smoked pork hock, about 1 lb
- 2 tsp hot sauce (Tobasco or similar)
- Sprinkle cayenne pepper (if desired)
Rinse peas with water and drain well. Place in the bowl of the slow cooker, pour in broth and water, then stir in celery, carrots, onion, Italian seasoning and bay leaves. Add the pork hock.
Cover and cook for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low. You want to get it until the pork is tender and falling off the bone (though, because of the skin, it won’t actually fall off.)
When everything is looking cooked, remove the pork from the cooker and, after it has cooled a bit, remove and discard skin, fat and bones and dig out as much meat as you can. Cut this into pieces.
Discard bay leaves. Remove about one-third of the soup into a food processor and puree, then return this to the slow-cooker to help thicken the soup. Add pork and hot sauce, then stir to mix. Taste and, if you like, add a little more hot sauce or a sprinkle of cayenne.
Curious about my “Kitchen Castoffs” concept? Here’s the explainer describing my 100-day project.
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