Here's the truth: my mom used to make split pea soup when I was growing up and I hated it! I also hated ham so that's probably a big part of it. I outgrew almost all of my picky-eater tendencies during culinary school and recently my little brother said that he loves split pea soup so I thought I'd give it another try. This is a really easy recipe that I found from Everyday Food and it's in a slow cooker so that makes it really easy.
I was worried that it would be difficult to find split peas and ham hocks at my grocery store. Nope. I went to Albertson's and found both for under $3 each. You could also make this using a ham bone left over from Christmas dinner (if ham on Christmas is your thing). The only change I would make is not blend it up like I did. My mom did this with her soup so I figured I would blend it a bit with my immersion blender. Well, that "bit" went a little too far and it became cream of split pea soup. Note: don't do that. I served this with rolls and salad on a cold, blustery night with a warm glow reflected by our Christmas tree. Doesn't that sound heavenly? Fall and winter are the best times of year.
4 carrots, diced small
1 celery stalk, diced small
1/2 red bell pepper, diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 dried bay leaves
2 small ham hocks (1 1/4 pounds total), with several 1/2-inch slits cut into skin *see note above
Coarse salt and ground pepper
In a medium pot, bring broth to a boil, then carefully pour into a 5 to 6 quart slow cooker. Add split peas, onion, carrots, celery, bell pepper, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and ham hocks (or leftover ham bone); season with salt and pepper.
Cover and cook on high until split peas are creamy, 6 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove ham hocks from pot. Discard skin and bones; dice meat. Discard bay leaves. Lightly mash peas with the back of a wooden spoon (or not at all, if you like). Return ham to soup and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Now I'm going to eat Candy Cane Joe-Joe ice cream and watch more of my DVR pile up, thank you very much.