There’s a lot of meat left on there, you’re thinking. But how do you use it?
What would Grandma do? She’d make soup out of it. Fer Sure. And what goes with ham? Beans!
Now, when the Damsel has talked to people about using and rotating their food storage, she has noticed there is a Great Fear of Beans out there. Bean Fear stalks the land. Dry beans don’t look, smell, or taste like food. They don’t even sound like food. And the usual methods for turning those hard little lumps into something edible are time-consuming. She has seen grown women tremble at the thought of having to live on dry beans.
So we’ll take a baby step toward conquering our Bean Fear. The answer: Split Pea Soup. Split peas are great, because you can eat them the same day that you take them out of your cupboard. You can be eating them only 2-3 hours later.
Split peas and ham are like Raggedy Ann and Andy. They go together. And if you have tried split pea soup in the past and thought it was nasty green paste and no thank you, try it again made with a meaty hambone.
Grandma knew that making soup out of bones was not only a way to use what she had and not be wasteful, but that it would make her soup taste a quantum leap better than soup made without a bone.
Okay so maybe she wouldn’t have thought “quantum leap.” But you get the idea.
Split peas are a humble little food. They store well (like forever) and they’re cheap. So if you’re afraid of beans, come along. The Damsel will hold your hand.
The Damsel measured these, just to find out how many cups of split peas are in a pound. This is two pounds of peas, measuring just over 4 cups. So Grandma’s saying holds true in this case:
“A pint’s a pound, the world around.” Repeat three times or until it’s burned into your memory.
If you recall that a pint = 2 cups, you’ll know there are 4 cups of peas in a 2 lb. bag without having to measure. Or convert another recipe that calls for pounds instead of cups. Or the other way around.
Useful little saying. It doesn’t work for everything but it’s a great rule of thumb.
Here’s what we’ll use. Just this, plus the raggedy ham bone. Pull off all the bits of ham you can and set aside. If there are any big bits, chop them until you have roughly bite size pieces of ham. Don’t worry if you leave some behind. It will add flavor to the soup.
Chop the onions and carrots into bite size pieces too. Rinse the split peas and pick out any stray bits of gravel or weird stuff you might see.
Put 4 quarts of water in a large pot. (You can decrease the water a cup or two for a thicker consistency)
Now here’s the beautiful part. Don’t you love it when the recipe says “combine all ingredients?” Put the hambone in, and then dump in the ham pieces, split peas, onions, and carrots.
You’re thinking this looks weird. But this will turn into food! Have faith!
Put in some salt. Don’t be shy. The ham will add saltiness but yes, salt.
Put the lid on and let this simmer about two hours. This is a very low maintenance soup.
Over the two hours, the split peas absorb water and everything gets really friendly in the pot. When the carrots and onions are soft and the peas have no bite left to them, it’s done. Just take the weird hambone out and save for your favorite canine.
Note: Carrots are optional in this soup. The Damsel’s mom always put them in to add color and nutrition, and often scooped them out when they were done, blended them up, and poured them back in. You could do that. Or you can just leave them. It’s good either way.
Some people, especially the sprog type, will be afraid of this soup at first–maybe because of the color. If you can get past that, it’s really delicious. Especially with lots of pepper. Yes. Pepper. Yessssss.
While eating this you’ll feel smart, thrifty, and healthy. How many foods have so much to give?
Margot is a mom of seven and pretty much crazy from it. Online she's known as the Damsel in Dis Dress and blogs at the Old School (http://www.mynewoldschool.com/) and twitters at @the_damsel.
A blog about her writing adventures is found at Inklings.