Split Pea Soup is not hard to make, and if you have a hambone left over from the holiday, it's a perfect thing to do with it. The better the ham was, the better the soup will be.
Trim your hambone to remove excess fat remaining on it. A little fat is nice to add richness and flavor to the soup, but in balance. Same goes with the meat. Some ham meat in soup is excellent, too much is not.
Sort your dried split peas before cooking, just as you would sort dried beans. Remove any small rocks or bits of stems.
Put the hambone in a pot with one or two packages of dried split peas (depending on how much soup you want) and add a bay leaf. Cover with water. Don't add any salt - the hambone will be salty enough. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down. Simmer until the peas are soft. It will take about an hour to an hour and a half.
Remove the hambone and set aside while you prepare the peas - you'll come back to it later. Remove the bay leaf and throw away. Leave the broth in the pot.
This next part is VERY important. The hulls of the peas don't have a good texture for the soup so they need to be removed. Once I got a bright idea to just run it all through a blender to puree it. This was very bad - it just made the hulls too small to strain out, and we didn't like the soup. I had to throw it away.
Using a slotted spoon, dip the peas out of the broth into a cone shaped colander (sometimes called a "chinois") or jelly sieve and mash to separate the pulp. This is easiest if you do a few spoonfuls at a time and just keep adding until you've mashed all the peas. Scrape the last bit of pulp off the outside of the sieve and throw away the hulls that are on the inside.
If you don't have a chinois, you can use a large mesh strainer, or even a cheescloth bag - that would be messy but would suffice in a pinch.
Put the pulp back into the pan with the broth.
Trim the ham meat from the bone and cut into cubes. Add this to the soup.
Bring to a simmer and the soup is ready! Stir and ladle into bowls. Serve with homemade croutons. Lots and lots of croutons! It would also be great with garlic toast.
This is an old fashioned dish that deserves to come back to our tables. Paul taught me how to make this. We never had it when I was growing up, but Mama did say that some neighbors made it when she was a little girl in the 1940s. It's a wonderful way to get the last bit of flavor from a good ham bone!