Norwegian Split Pea Soup/Erter Souppe

Split pea soup is older than Campbell’s Soup Co. annddd…Jesus. Romans began cultivating this lime legume sometime between 500-400 B.C. Athenians vendors were selling bowls of pea soup in the streets. Its popularity grew into the 19th century and began popping up in other countries, mainly because it was a cheap and nutritious food source. The dried peas could be stored for a long time, which kind of made this the “bean of Europe” in many ways (“Vegetarians in Paradise/Peas History/Peas Nutrition/Peas Folklore/Peas Recipe”).

If you should travel abroad and get a hankering for some split pea soup, or just see it on the menu as you scan for chocolate cake; you may notice some differences in the recipe based on the country it is from (“Pea Soup”):
– Canada prefers yellow peas.
– Germany’s version has smoked meats like ham, bacon, or sausage in it.
– Poland feeds a thick version to its Navy, probably so it can stay on spoons in choppy waters.
– Swedes and Finns eat their soup with pork and pancakes on Thursdays, to prepare for fasting on Fridays.
– The U.S. eats a version from a red-labeled can. This pork and carrot recipe was inspired by French-Canadian mill workers, who settled in New England during the 19th century.

There seems to be a divide to what “real” Norwegian split pea soup is. Some believe it is only yellow peas, others green, and a small independent faction, it is whichever bag of peas is on sale. My dad belongs to the latter. Most can at least agree that it doesn’t come from a can, even moi, I mean “meg” (me in Norwegian).

Today I am sharing the version that my dad’s mother, my farmor (father’s mother in Norwegian), made on many evenings at the lake cabin. The soup has seasonal versatility with a few simple modifications. During cold weather, serve with hunks of hardy rye bread and beer. If you live where it is super cold and snows a lot, like Fargo or “Anywhere Minnesota,” you can have this with two beers ─ you’re not driving anywhere.

In the summers you can omit the meat and serve with flat bread crisps and a cold (small) glass of aquavit. Traditional aquavit is a very potent Norwegian liquor and is also super old. It has been made the same way for approximately 200 years and has nasal-passage-clearing notes of anise and caraway.

1 lb. dried split peas
2 med potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 larger carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup of diced rutabaga, peeled and chopped (Good lord, this one is awful to peel and chop ─ think “Sword in the Stone moment.”)
½-3/4 cup celery, chopped
1 meaty ham bone/ham hock (1 -1 ½ cup of meat)
2 tsp of ham stock (bullion)
Dash of black pepper to taste
Dash of salt to taste
2-3 bay leaves

*Check peas for stones and debris. Do this or pay later at the dentist!

Step 1: Cover the peas with 8-10 cups of water in either a pot or crock pot. (I have not used the instant pot on this yet, because it intimidates me – baby steps).

Step 2: Add the chopped potatoes, carrots, onion, rutabaga, and celery.

Step 3: Put the ham bone/ ham hock and ham stock/bullion into the pool. Bring the pot to a boil; cover and let it simmer over low heat for about 1 ½ hours and stir occasionally.

Step 4: Then take out the ham bone/hock and remove the meat. Dice the meat and put the meat and the bone/hock back into the pot.

Step 5: When peas soften or start breaking up, taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Cover and continue to cook for another 30-45 minutes on low and stir occasionally.

Step 6: Remove bay leaves when finished. Serve in bowls with flat bread, biscuits, dinner pancakes, or hardy bread and enjoy!