Smoky Ham and Split Pea Soup

I, for one, am not complaining about the rain. It’s a fine excuse to wear green Wellingtons, watch Netflix documentaries, and drink a splash of brandy in the bathtub. Rain is also a very good reason to make a great batch of soup. I’d been thinking of my grandfather, a plumber who read the Old Testament in the kitchen at midnight and brought me to the gin mill on certain afternoons. Jack liked to have a cup of split pea soup with ham at the diner. That’s what I needed to cook. I drove up to Bisson’s and sought the counsel of their butchers in bloodstained white smocks. They assured me that one ham hock would provide enough meat for a giant pot of comforting soup. I listen to them, because they know about meat. This soup has soul, smoky, salty, pea green and piggy soul. It makes you feel nostalgic and content. You cannot have it any other way. Not on a day such as this.

Split Pea Soup

Smoky Ham and Split Pea Soup


  • 1 lb split peas, rinsed and picked through
  • 1 2-2 1/2 lb smoked ham hock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 3 sprigs chopped fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Parsley, for garnish
  • Creme Fraiche, for swirling on top


Place the peas, ham hock and bay leaves in a large stock pot and cover with 2 1/2 quarts of water. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Skim any foam that rises to the top. In a large pan saute the onions in butter, then add carrots, celery, garlic and thyme, seasoned with salt and pepper. When the vegetables are glistening, add them to the skimmed stock pot, cover loosely and turn down the heat, so the pot is simmering. After an hour and a half remove the ham hock and bay leaves. Blend the soup in batches or use an immersion blender directly in the pot. Strip the meat from the bone and use a food processor to shred the ham until it’s a consistency somewhere between diced and smooshed. Stir the ham into the blended soup and top with a sprinkle of parsley and a dollop of creme fraiche, Greek yogurt, or sour cream. Serve with crusty bread slathered in butter and a glass of wine or whiskey.

Our “Classics” series tackles some of our favorite dishes from Maine’s rich culinary tradition. You can think of them as “traditional” dishes, or more accurately, things you might have had for hot lunch in the fourth grade, had you attended St. George Elementary. To read more from this series, click here.
Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a writer and mother living in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. She is very good at talking about herself in the third person. She is co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road.


  1. Just this past Sunday, I bought a bag of split peas to use with my Easter hock in the freezer. Great minds…

    1. we do need a crock pot, I think. And I was going to use stock, but thought it might get too salty. I’ll try it that way next time, thanks!

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