First, you start off with a smoked ham hock. It is important that it be smoked, as it adds a wonderful dimension to the soup. It should also be salted, but if it is not you can simply add salt to your soup. (Another advantage of smoked hocks is that they keep for along time. Smoking was one of the first methods of food preservation, and it works well. If you intend to keep one for a long time, then you can always freeze them).
Chop up one medium onion and one large carrot and add them to a soup pot along with the hock. Add 8 cups of cold water and a healthy pinch or two of rosemary, and bring it all up to a slow boil. Reduce the heat and let this simmer for at least an hour, preferably two. The longer you let it simmer, the more flavor you’ll extract from the hock, and the more tender it will become.
After you are done simmering, remove the hock and let it cool down. Add two cups of split peas to the pot and bring it back up to heat. It will take about half an hour to 45 minutes for the peas to soften. While they are cooking, and once the hock has cooled down enough, cut off any fat and shred the meat from the bone. Chop up the meat and set it aside.
When the peas have softened enough, use a stick blender (also called “immersion blender”) to blend it all. (If you don’t have a stick blender, stop reading immediately and go and buy one, because they are extremely useful.) I prefer to leave some chunks for texture, but it’s not that important.
After blending the soup, add the shredded or chopped ham back in, and let it come up to heat again. it is now ready to serve.
You’ll notice that I didn’t use a lot of exact measurements in this recipe. There are a lot of things you can change in this recipe, but the one thing you should stick to is the four-to-one ratio of water to split peas. Anything more and it will be too runny; anything less, and it won’t be liquid at all. Another piece of advice I should offer is that if you decide to add any other ingredients, make sure they are not acidic like tomatoes or vinegar. Acid makes the skin of the peas tough, and they won’t blend well.