Centuries old, the classic Yellow Split Pea Soup has been gracing Swedish tables for generations.
Known as årtsoppa in Swedish, this simple dish of peas and pork was traditionally served on Thursdays before the Christian fast on Friday. Even today, it is found on lunch menus, in school cafeterias and government commissaries served with knäckebröd crispbread or the crêpe-like pancakes for which the country is famous.
Pea soup is a longstanding cultural touchstone among the related Nordic nations, as each has their own variation thereof (Finnish hernekeitto, Norwegian ertesuppe; Danish gule ærter). Norway prefers the recessive green but the others rely on the yellow pea variety, mechanically split and dried for ease of cooking and storage.
Pork is generally used in cooking this soup, although the specific porcine product used is flexible. Smoked ham hocks are cheap and easily found in most modern groceries, but the unsmoked variety is more authentic. Even salt pork, ham or bacon can be used if nothing else is available. Of course, omit the pork completely for a vegetarian recipe.
As this soup can provide a complete entrée, many accompaniments can round out a full meal. Mild Swedish mustard is usually served alongside the soup for dipping, as is bread or pancakes with whipped cream or jam. Not uncommon is a small glass of brandy or punsch, a Scandinavian rum-like liqueur.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh herbs like marjoram or thyme.
Yellow Split Pea Soup
1 c dried yellow split peas
8 oz cooked ham
1 stalk of celery
½ yellow onion
4 c chicken stock
¼ t thyme
¼ t oregano
1 Chop the onion and celery and sauté in oil until soft but not browned, about 5 min.
2 Add stock, ham, and herbs and seasonings. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. (Add an additional 1 c water if soup becomes too thick or dry.)
3 Remove the ham and allow to cool. Remove 2 c of soup and purée until smooth, then stir this back into the pot.
4 Dice the ham and return it to the to the pot just before serving.