Split Pea Soup
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This is my never-fail recipe for split pea soup that makes enough to last half the winter.  There is no pre- soaking the peas so that your prep time is cut way down – you can decide to make this soup anytime!  The peas give this soup a touch of natural sweetness that you can supplement with a dash of optional sugar and salt (see options below). Ingredients: 1 gallon water 2 pounds dried split peas 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces or smaller 6 stalks celery, washed and also cut into ½ inch pieces or smaller 4 tablespoons Better Than Bouillon (chicken or ham base flavor) or enough of your favorite bouillon cubes to flavor the 1 gallon of water 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil 3 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine Options, to taste: ½ pound cooked ham or pork shoulder, added along with the water 1-2 tablespoons sugar, added when finished 1-2 teaspoons non-iodized or Kosher salt, added when finished 1 pound frozen spinach, added in the last 30 minutes of cooking First, spread out the split peas and check for small stones and sticks.  I rarely find any, but finding any of this in your soup ruins your day.  Then rinse the split peas well, and drain, then set aside. In a large stock pot, sauté the garlic in the oil under medium heat until it almost turns brown.  Then add the onion and continue to sauté until the onions are reduced a bit and start to release their water into steam and begin to soften. A word about the bouillon.  This is the real secret of how to make this soup come out delicious.  My go-to bouillon is found in a jar of Better Than Bouillon which is a fantastic product.  You can substitute your own bouillon cubes or soup stock.  Just be sure that you end up with 1 gallon of flavored stock. Now pour in the water/stock, celery and bouillon flavor and increase heat to medium-high.  Cover the pot and adjust your heat to keep the soup simmering and not at a full rolling boil.  Stir every 15 minutes or so, to keep the peas from sticking to the bottom of the pot as they disintegrate and collect there.  Keep the pot covered so that the water does not boil off. After about 90 minutes, the peas should have mostly turned to soup-like mush and so you are nearly done.  Some folks like to use an immersion blender at this point to puree the soup. Now add the carrots and cook for just 10 minutes more – I do this so that my carrots stay a little firm within the soup, otherwise they will also cook to mush. Add salt and a little sugar to taste – I usually add none. This makes a great deal of soup so you may want to cut this recipe in half.  Or, since this soup freezes so well you can keep enough on hand to last for weeks.  When serving from the refrigerator or freezer, you may want to add a little water to get the consistency you like.  After cooling, this soup tends to firm up a bit which actually helps to take up less storage room. Enjoy!