I love autumn.
Cooler weather, no humidity, gorgeous colors as the leaves turn from green to fiery shades of red and gold….
And cold weather FOOD.
Stews and goulashes and casseroles and roasts and soups.
I love pea soup. Always have, since I was a kid.
I even still have tremendous affection for Campbell's pea soup. I think I was fascinated by the green, can-shaped pea soup blob. I still buy it occasionally, even though it doesn't taste as good to me any more – it tastes a bit like can. But still. I cook the soup and make buttered toast fingers, like my mom used to do for me when I was little. And even though the canned stuff doesn't taste as good as it used to, that's okay. I buy it for the little stroll down memory lane, I guess.
Speaking of memory lane, and pea soup…
When I was a kid, the washer and dryer were in our kitchen. I used to sit on top of one of them and hang out while my mother made dinner. The washer and dryer were perpendicular to one section of counter area, and there was also another area of countertop to the left (if you were sitting cross-legged on top of the appliances and facing the counter and sink that was perpendicular, or directly in front. But with a little space to walk by. Oh this makes no sense as I describe it. The main thing you need to know is that there was a counter to my left.
Okay, wait, since this is going to bug me, because it's important to me that you SEE the kitchen exactly as it was then, I've made a picture for you.
Here it is, the kitchen as I remember it from when I was a kid:
There. That makes me feel better. I've colored the most relevant parts in red. They are me, my mom, and the food processor.
Okay, back to the story.
Mom was making pea soup. Probably a pea soup very much like the one I made the other day. With a ham bone and split peas and carrots and onions.
And actually, at this point in the story, she's finished the soup, and is going to puree it. She removes the bone and sets it aside to cool a bit, and then she'll take the meat off the bone and add that back into the pureed soup.
She brings the pot of soup over to the counter next to the washing machine, and ladles some of the soup into the food processor.
Have I told you this story before?
Anyway, I'm sitting there on my perch, and we're talking about whatever it was we talked about at that time, and she runs the food processor, purees that batch, and pours it into another pot or a bowl or something.
Then she ladles more soup in, puts the top back on – you get the idea, right?
So everything is moving along, and we're chatting and all of a sudden a VOLCANO of pea souple erupts, splattering everything in the vicinity with hot, thick, pea soup lava. EVERYTHING – the ceiling, the cupboards, the counter, the floor, and my mother and me.
We looked at each other in surprise, and I'm very sure we laughed.
My mom took a look inside the food processor to try to figure out what had caused the explosion. Turns out the blade had jammed on a bit of bone from the ham and that, in turn, prompted Mt. Vesoupius to erupt.
So that's the story.
And every time I make or eat pea soup, I think of it.
So on Saturday night, I made pea soup. A double batch.
We had a giant ham bone – actually most of a leg, it seemed – that one of Bill's coworkers had given to him a while ago and we'd just wrapped it up and stuck it in the freezer.
(As I write that I'm thinking how bizarre that might sound…but hey, that's what we and our friends do - we give each other food or portions of animals with which to make other food.)
I had to dig out my big giant dutch oven – the one I use for turkeys and 5-rib-roasts and huges legs of lamb. It was the only vessel the ham bone (leg) would fit in.
And there it is, in all its frozen glory.
Next, I cut up two onions and 3 carrots and added them to the pot.
Next in – two 1-lb bags of split peas.
So inexpensive…and high in fiber!
And into the pot they went, along with 9 1/2 (frozen) cups of chicken stock. (Why such a weird number, you ask? I usually freeze stock in 2 cup amounts, but there was a bag that only had a cup and a half, so I figured I'd use it up.)
I know. You're salivating right now, aren't you. Of course you are. What could be more appetizing than that image? I think I'll use that one for TasteSpotting. I'm sure they'll like it.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. And then I added about five cups of water, to bring the total to around (just over) 14 cups of liquid.
I tossed in two bay leaves and a bunch of peppercorns (maybe half a teaspoon, probably a bit more) and turned the flames on under the pan.
I put the lid on and brought the whole thing to a boil (which took a little while, as some of the components were still frozen)…
Here's the boil:
I turned the heat down and put the lid back on and let it simmer for half an hour…
Then I turned the ham bone over and put the lid back on and simmered for another half hour or so.
I shut the heat off and removed the bone and set that aside to cool. Then I took my little hand-held immersion blender and pureed the vegetable portion (and no, there were no bits of bone lurking within to jam up my blender, fortunately.)
Then I picked all the meat off the bone and chopped it up and added it back into the soup. I added some salt, and that was it.
Oh – and here's a word to the wise (or, since this is me, a paragraph or two to the wise).
If you are having pea soup for dinner, and you are making a bunch of toast for the family to dunk into the soup or use as croutons, and you decide it might be yummy to make some garlic butter for the toast, instead of just plain butter, and you therefore put some butter in a small pan and set the flame on low while you mash up some garlic, and then you go outside to put something in one of the recycle bins and you happen to look across the street and see that your friends HAVE A NEW DOG! and you march right over to meet the adorable new dog, and you stand there and chat and learn how the dog came to be a part of the family and he's soooooo sweet and look at that face! and his ears are so soft and silky! and their kids go over to your house to round up YOUR kids so they can meet the dog, and you stand around some more making sure your kids are gentle with the dog and don't scare him, and the kids want to play over at THAT house, of course, since there's the new dog, but their youngest wants to come back to YOUR house and hang out with your husband, and you say that's fine, no problem, I've got to go check on the soup anyway, and you FINALLY amble back across the street with your friends' three-year-old for company, and he goes downstairs in search of your husband and YOU stop
because you smell something not quite appetizing.
And you realize THAT YOU ARE A SENILE IDIOT and you left the butter there melting over the fire, and of course it's melted and gone past that point to the BURNING OF THE MILK SOLIDS point. A point after which there is no return.
So, irritated with your senile self, you dump the whole pot into a bigger pot of soapy water in your sink and you put the garlic in the fridge for another time and you just butter the damn pieces of toast already.
And you bring a pot of soup and the three-year-old across the street and collect your own offspring, and dinner is served.
And it turns out pretty yummy, though eventually (and predictably) Alex decided he doesn't really like the soup – he just likes the bits of ham and the toast. But Bill eats two helpings and Julia eats most of her one helping, and the smell of burnt butter disappeared pretty quickly, thank goodness.
And that is MY pea soup story.