For many people, "pea soup" means a soup made with dried split peas, perhaps pureed into a thick creamy soup (like the kind in the old fashioned red and white can). However, Grandma Laack welcomed the early summer season with a fresh pea soup that is a lot lighter and a good dish for spring. Frozen peas are about as easy an ingredient to include in dishes like this.
As for the stock: Ham is a traditional paring with split pea soup, but you can be very flexible in your choice of stock--or even chicken or vegetarian bouillon cubes if needed. This is a great way to get the last flavor and bits of meat from a ham bone too.
After the initial chopping and sauteeing, there is little work to this soup. This makes a large batch, perfect for freezing or keeping in the refrigerator for those busy nights when you don't have time to cook anything from scratch.
Spring Pea Soup
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 c chopped celery
1 1/2 to 2 c diced or thinly sliced carrots
1 to 2 chicken or vegetarian bouillon cubes or packets (if no stock is available)
1 quart rich chicken stock or ham juices
1 to 2 quarts water, depending on your preference for consistency
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 to 1 t black pepper
salt to taste
1 bay leaf (optional)
24 ounces frozen green peas
1 ham bone (optional)
1. Saute the onion in a small amount of oil until translucent and just starting to turn golden.
2. Combine all the remaining ingredients, EXCEPT the peas, in a large pot. When the onions are golden, add to the remaining mixture. Cover and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to low, to keep the mixture barely simmering, and cook for about one to two hours, until the celery and carrots are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings.
3. About ten minutes or so before serving, remove the bay leaf if used and stir in the peas (no need to thaw). Turn the heat up to medium and allow the soup to return to a simmer. The sooner you serve the soup after adding the peas, the more color they will retain.
The soup may be prepared in a slow cooker. Allow about 6 hours at LOW setting. About 20 minutes before serving, turn the cooker to HIGH and add the peas.
Use up bits of ham along with the ham bone--you may add the cut up ham at the beginning of the simmering process or with the peas.
Diced potatoes, pearl barley, or cooked brown rice may also be added if you prefer a thicker, starchier soup. You may need to adjust the cooking time slightly to be sure these are fully cooked.