Pea Soup

I have mentioned pea soup a couple times recently, but without writing about it specifically. This is an oversight, given how much of a favorite a new variant on it has become here. I regularly make sweet & sour kielbasa, which needs to be another post if I haven’t done so already. The ideal amount for five of us with little or no leftovers and nobody being disappointed is one and a half of the standard size kielbasa packages. That leaves half of one, or close to it.

My wife grew up on pea soup that was nothing more than peas and chicken broth. She doesn’t mind some ham and the associated flavor, but can’t bear to eat it if there is too much. This tends to happen when I use an entire leftover ham bone. She also prefers disintegrated peas, as you get easily when using split peas. My grandmother always used whole peas. Oddly enough, I don’t remember the peas being much beyond disintegrated, but when I tried whole peas it was nearly impossible to cook it enough for that texture, so my memory must be fuzzy. By the same token, I remember my grandmother’s pea soup having substantial chunks of ham (and ham fat), and that’s what I tend to expect. Anyway, I found I prefer split peas, so that is what I always use. Speaking of my grandmother, and to some extent my mother and sister, it always seems strange to me when I make something I remember fondly as something they made, but mine blows theirs away. I recognize now that my grandmother was a workman-like cook of minimal seasonings, certainly good, sometimes beyond good, but working within a limited range, tastes, and even a limited level of interest.

The solution to extra kielbasa and the need for less meat in pea soup is to cut the remaining kielbasa into small pieces and use that in a pea soup. I start cooking the peas in chicken broth (with chicken bullion cubes) in one pan. In a small frying pan I cook some chopped up onion (keep some frozen for purposes like this) in butter, along with the kielbasa. I also tend to add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, getting their zing into the oil, and maybe some dried thyme. I finish by adding some broth, simmering slightly, then dumping the whole thing in with the peas. I season the soup further as needed, and at some point I grate in a carrot or three. Cook until it’s as done as you like, though we normally eat at when it’s all the way disintegrated. This tends to be in the house as a lunch or supplemental food, as opposed to being served as a meal, though a couple of the kids do actually eat it.

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