As many of you know, my 88-year-old father is nearing the end of his happy and fortunate life. For the past couple months, as his health has gone downhill, I’ve been spending lots of time with my parents in the Pacific Northwest, hence my lack of blog posting.
I’m heading back down to Washington again on Wednesday. At home in Alaska, I’ve been making lots of freezer food so my husband can have quick and easy meals while I’m gone. This weekend, I spent a lazy Saturday afternoon making a giant pot of Split Pea Soup, comfort food at its most basic.
I started making Split Pea Soup 35 years ago as a college student living on work study wages. In those days, I ate it because it was cheap, filling, and very tasty. Now, I eat Split Pea Soup just because it tastes good. As it has evolved over the years, my Split Pea Soup recipe is one of my favorites.
There are two keys to making wonderful split pea soup: the soup must cook at low temperature for a long time and the ham hock (or leftover ham-bone) must be meaty and of best quality. Low and slow cooking allows the flavors to meld seamlessly into one another, and the cartilage in the hock to dissolve and give the soup a silky mouth feel. In Anchorage, Mr. Prime Beef on the Old Seward Highway sells beautifully meaty smoked ham hocks; make sure to have the butcher cut them into thirds for ease of cooking and better tasting soup. The other day, I also say nice-looking whole ham hocks at Natural Pantry; sadly, this store doesn’t have an in-store butcher to cut them up.