10 Dishes to Make This Winter: Ham and Split Pea Soup

This is the beginning of a series, “10 Dishes to Make This Winter” which will feature hearty warm recipes for winter weather.

This is a great hearty soup that can serve as a warm winter entrée combined with a green salad, a crusty loaf of bread and a warm fire.

This is real Virginia smoked ham, with a rind and a cured exotic flavor heavy in salt, but also heavy on flavor!

The basic ingredient is a VA smoked country ham.  This is not the sterile tasteless rubbery ham of deli cold cuts.  This is ham with real flavor.  In this case you begin by cooking the whole ham in water with bay leaves and this begins the broth.  Then you add beans, browned vegetables, and seasoning.  The result is a satisfying soup that sticks to the ribs.

The recipe calls for split peas which can be yellow or green; but, red lentils or dal will also work.


  • A 3-5 pound smoked Virginia ham
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 lb split peas (lentils will work)
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 oz olive oil
  • 4 carrots,chopped
  • 4 onions, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 oz butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 4 small potatoes,peeled and diced
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 red onion chopped finely
  • balsamic vinegar,as garnish

To make the soup

Put the ham in water to cover with the bay leaves and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 2-3 hours,partially covered.

Begin by simmering a Virginia smoked country ham in water with bay leaves. This not only cooks the ham but makes the broth that will be the base of the soup.

Remove the ham and add split peas and thyme to the broth.  Simmer them until tender but not dissolved, around 45 minutes.

While this happens, shred the ham with two forks and discard rind and bone.

After cooking, the ham will shred easily with two forks. Discard rind and bone.

Brown the carrots, onions, and celery well in a separate pan.  When well-browned, add the butter, garlic and sugar and allow to further cook and brown for another half hour.  Take care that they do not scorch by reducing heat as necessary.

Add veggies, ham, and potatoes to the broth and peas.

Like most good soups, this one includes the combination of vegetables the French call mire poix (pronounced meer-pwah), or onions, carrots and celery. Brown them deeply.

Simmer until potatoes are tender and peas are dissolved.  Soup will be the consistency of cream (about 20 min).

Season with black pepper.  Salt will be unnecessary because of all the salt in the ham.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of finely chopped red onions.


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