When I was a kid, my very favorite soup was split pea soup. My mom would make it using the ham bone from Christmas dinner. Through the years, I’ve made my own split pea soup, sometimes with the Christmas ham bone for flavoring, and other times with smoked sausage.
I think I actually prefer the smoked sausage. The sausage that I use is Conecuh smoked sausage. Unlike other sausages such as Kielbasa, this sausage needs to be cooked before using it in a dish. Part of the reason for cooking it is to get rid of most of the fat. It’s a bit time consuming, but well worth it!
The first step involves slicing the sausage and cooking it over medium heat in my pressure cooker. I always use the pressure cooker because I don’t have to soak the peas first, and because the cooking time is so much reduced. Also, I tend to cook the sausage in two batches.
After the sausage is fully cooked, I drain it well on paper towels and use extra paper towels to remove as much grease as possible. I pour all of the fat from the pan, and quickly wipe the inside with paper towels. Then, I add the onions and celery to the pan, and cook over medium heat for about five minutes. The liquid that is given off helps to loosen a lot of the “fond” or little roasty bits from the bottom of the pan after cooking the sausage.
Once full pressure is reached, I reduce the heat to maintain the pressure, and cook the soup for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, I remove the pan from the heat and allow it to depressurize. When I remove the top of the pressure cooker, the resultant soup doesn’t look very good because solids are at the bottom and the liquids, at the top.
1 pound (16 ounces) smoked sausage* sliced thin
1 pound (16 ounces) green split peas, picked over and rinsed
1 large onion (2 cups), chopped
3 ribs of celery (1 cup), chopped
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 cups water**
Cook the sausage in a large pressure cooker. Remove and drain well on paper towels. Pour all fat from the pressure cooker, and wipe down with paper towels.
Add the onion and celery to the pressure cooker, and cook 5 minutes, stirring to loosen the browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the split peas, sausage, salt, thyme, pepper and water. Stir well.
Lock the lid of the pressure cooker in place. Over high heat, bring the highest pressure. Reduce the heat just enough to maintain the high pressure, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; allow the pressure to come down naturally. Remove the lid; stir well, taking care the blend in the peas and other ingredients that have sunk to the bottom of the pan. Correct the seasonings. Yield: 6 servings.
*May use 2 cups of diced ham in place of the smoked sausage. If using ham, combine the ham, onions and celery. Cook for 5 minutes and proceed as above.
**For a richer flavor, use chicken broth in place of the water.[/print_this]