~ Thick & Creamy Crockpot Split Pea & Ham Soup ~
I have a large arsenal of small kitchen appliances -- many in multiples. Some I bought in different sizes for specific purposes, others because I wanted a newer, improved model. Thirty-nine years is a long time to collect appliances. I have no reason to sell any on e-Bay either. Storage space is not an issue for me, and, my old relics have become fun, retro props for photographs and TV. Each one is reminiscent of a different time and place in my life.
Meet my very first "crockpot", made by West Bend. I got it as a wedding shower gift in 1974. I have two others identical to it. My mother gave me hers and my girlfriend Sally gave me hers (when they each decided that crockery cookery was not their gig either). All three are like new and work perfectly. What fun to welcome this old friend onto my countertop today!
The slow-cooker was originally invented by Chicago's Irving Naxon (Naxon Utilities Corporation). It was introduced, in August 1970, as the Naxon All-Purpose Cooker, or Beanery. As the story goes, Irving was a great inventor but lacked marketing skills and his bean machine flopped. Later that same year, the Rival company bought Naxon and reintroduced the product under the Crock-Pot name.
Shortly after I got married in 1974, the crockpot craze occurred. Just in time for Christmas, Rival introduced removable stoneware inserts to the product. Women everywhere were buying them up. Guess what was on my wish list that year? Yep!
The mother of all things crockpot... they've come a long way baby!
The crockpot. The illustrious American one-pot meal-cooking wonder of the "I have no time to cook", "I hate to cook" generation. I use mine, maybe twice a year. Why? I have time to cook, I love to cook, and, there are only a handful of things I like cooked in a crockpot. Simply stated: Everything cooked conventionally, by any method, just tastes better. There are, of course, exceptions: split pea soup is one of them. Chili is another. As long as split pea soup is thick and creamy, I love it made by any method, and: every crockpot delivers a great split pea soup!
A bit about split peas: Dried peas are "pulses": the dried seeds of legumes (beans, peas and lentils). They come in green and yellow varieties, which can be used interchangeably, with yellow split peas being milder in flavor.
When whole peas are harvested and dried, if the dull-colored outer skin is removed from the whole round pea (either manually or mechanically), the pod inside splits in half. The halves are known as split peas. Split peas are most commonly used to make thick soups and stews because, unlike whole peas, they do not need to be soaked prior to cooking, and, they cook quite a bit faster due to the increased surface area of the two smaller halves!
2 cups peeled and diced carrots
2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced yellow or sweet onion
4 cups peeled and diced gold potatoes
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional) (I add 1/2 teaspoon because we like this soup spicy.)
2 meaty smoked ham shanks, about 2 1/2 pounds total (Note: Click on the Related Article link below, ~ Hog Heaven: Smoked Ham Shanks & Ham Hocks ~, to learn about these two flavorful cuts of pork.)
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (Note: Be sure to have additional chicken stock on hand for reheating any leftovers, as, the split peas continue to absorb moisture. Add just enough to return the soup to desired consistency. If you're reheating the entire 3 quarts, plan on needing 1 1/2-2 additional cups.)
1-2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper, for garnishing soup
Note: Smoked ham shanks and ham hocks contain a lot of salt. Wait until closer to the end of the cooking process to taste and add more salt.
Open the lid and give the mixture another good stir.
~ Step 3. After the first hour of cooking on high, change the temperature to low and continue to cook for 7 more hours, stirring occasionally, or, until the split peas are very tender and the meat from the ham is falling off the bones.
Note: This photo has been taken after 3 hours of cooking on low. If you taste the mixture now, you will notice that the shanks are gradually adding the needed salt.
Ladle hot soup into warm bowls and serve immediately with a grinding of pepper...
Thick & Creamy Crockpot Split Pea & Ham Soup: Recipe yields 3 quarts. This soup freezes really well. When reheating, remember to have additional chicken stock on hand to return it to desired consistency (1/2-3/4 cup of stock for every quart of soup).
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 6 1/2-quart crockpot; 1-quart measuring container; large spoon; soup ladle
This is particularly good in the Fall, when sweet potatoes are in season, and, like all root vegetables (and beans too), they cook up perfectly in the crockpot!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)