Pissed off at split-pea soup | AspenTimes.com

Pissed off at split-pea soup

Twice a year, with predictable regularity, I succumb to what my co-workers see as HAM FEVER. Ham Fever begins shortly before Easter and shortly before the Christmas holidays, manifesting itself in the week prior to both events as a significant ham sale at the local markets.”Wow – $14 for a ham!” and I toss one into the cart, forgetting the maxim that the definition of eternity is two people with a ham or, in my case, two eternities with a ham. I enjoy ham for a couple of days, then bring the bulk of it down to the Times and set it on the composing table by the sink known as “the trough,” where, in seconds, it is ripped apart – fat, gristle and all – by starving employees.A few days later the real holiday ham sale begins at the local markets. “Wow – $7 for a ham!” and I can’t resist, so I toss one in the cart, rationalizing that I had been too hasty giving away the first ham and already looking forward to the second.The second ham is never as good as the first. This second ham was a name-brand spiral-cut but way too salty. With it, I could make a spectacular vat of split-pea soup, a favorite at the Times, and bring in the rest of the carcass for the diehards at the trough.In the past I have never had any trouble executing my never-fail split-pea soup recipe: three bags of dried peas, a couple of big onions (chopped), a couple of hearts of celery (chopped), chicken broth or bullion cubes, 10-12 cups of water, salt, pepper, garlic and whatever came to mind, and it always came out great. It didn’t matter if I soaked the dried peas overnight or let them simmer for an hour, the result was the same.Either way, it took six or seven hours simmering on the stove before the rock-hard peas turned slowly to a creamy mush, indicating that the soup was done – a tricky last hour because the soup wants to burn on the bottom.But for the past few years, my pea soup has gone awry. No amount of cooking would turn it into a creamy mush, and since neither the food mill nor the blender could deal with the ham, I had to fish out every last bit before taking these drastic measures.Well, this year I was ready for it. I soaked Goya peas for 20 hours and kept my diced ham in the refrigerator until I knew the crisis had passed. But the crisis didn’t pass. I cooked those frigging peas, onions, celery and garlic for 18 hours and the peas were still like barely softened rocks. I cooked the mess in shifts in the pressure cooker, then put it in shifts in the blender and it came out pea GRIT.My co-workers ate it anyway and stripped the rest of the ham down to the bone, but what is going on here? I know it’s not the altitude, so I have to suspect the peas.Off to Clark’s Market for Western Family split peas for a test. No soaking required, simmer gently until tender 20-30 minutes. I knew that was a lie, but after three hours of simmering they actually started to soften. Three more hours and they were edible and not sandy, but not creamy, either. What am I doing wrong? Send suggestions to su@aspentimes.com, please.Su Lum is a longtime local who thanks everyone for the puppy name suggestions. The final selection was Freddie (Fisher) and Nick (DeWolf). Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.

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