This is the way to make the best use of that frozen ham bone or a smoked ham hock. Making a ham stock first extracts maximum flavor and requires little attention.
Ham bones and scraps or one or two smoked ham hocks
3 quarts liquid, water plus stock
1 cup each peeled and chopped carrots and onions
½ cup chopped celery
An herb bouquet – 3 bay leaves, 1 tsp dried thyme, 5 whole cloves or allspice tied in cheesecloth
3 Tbsp. butter
2/3 cup each diced celery and onion
½ cup each diced carrot and turnip
3 Tbsp. flour
2 quarts ham stock, heated in a saucepan
1-1/2 cups green or yellow split peas
Salt and fresh ground pepper.
Place all the stock ingredients in a large pot. Add water to make sure ham bones are covered by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 3 to 4 hours covered loosely, skimming any foam that may develop. Strain and degrease. Refrigerate or freeze if not using right away. Cut useable meat from the bones and set aside.
Place a 3 or 4 quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and the soup vegetables and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Blend in the flour and cook and stir for 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and whisk in the hot stock. Stir in the split peas. Bring to a simmer while stirring. Cover loosely and simmer until the peas are tender, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper after ½ hour of cooking.
Either mash the peas and vegetables into the liquid with a fork, or purée the soup in a vegetable mill or food processor. Add a little ham stock or chicken stock if the soup seems too thick.
Heat soup to a simmer and serve, garnished with buttered croutons or reserved diced ham.