Soup is the comfort food of the winter season and this recipe definitely hit the spot when served to a group of my community friends this last week. It was an experiment that went well as I combined and modified other recipes.
The secret ingredient is homemade meat and vegetable stock--rather than store bought. I made a rich chicken stock with carrots, onions, garlic, celery, and lemon. (Lemon was just because I had it in my fridge to add. So why not?! It added a very mild tang that is a nice hidden undertone in this soup...no one knew!)
The not-so-secret but very key ingredient is bacon. This was a last minute decision as I stood in the grocery store evaluating my pork options. I didn’t make it to one of my local farmers for their ethically raised ham with cleaner processing ingredients. Now I faced buying a ham with loads of added ingredients that I didn’t care to ingest--or serve to my guests. Bacon was the safe route to go! I grabbed a packet of the uncured bacon and was thankful for it’s simplicity. It was a delicious addition to this soup as I put half of the pack in the soup and reserved the rest for a topping.
1 lb uncured bacon
2 large yellow onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
6 medium carrots, diced into bite-sized pieces
6 stalks of celery, diced
26 oz. dried split green peas, rinsed
16 cups ham and vegetable stock or chicken and vegetable stock*
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. smoked paprika
3 tsp. parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
Cook bacon in the oven or on the stove top until lightly crisp. (It will crisp more as it cools.) Save drippings. Then crumble and set aside ½ of bacon.
In a large soup pot, saute the onions in butter over medium heat until translucent (about 4-5 minutes). Add garlic and cook another minute (being careful to not let it get too dark). Add the peas, carrots, and celery.
Add the stock, bay leaves, paprika, parsley and salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring often.
Add ½ of cooked bacon and optional chicken or ham from homemade stock and bacon drippings. Simmer for another 30 minutes.
If needed, add additional salt and pepper.
Serve the soup hot, topped with crumbled bacon.