Whole Yellow

by wjw on January 29, 2023

For Cousin Cindy’s visit the other day, I cooked a large ham. It was something like 12 pounds, so it lasted considerably longer than the night Cindy was here. Since then we’ve enjoyed ham sandwiches, ham omelettes, and ham fried rice. Because there was a leftover ham bone, I was inspired to make a memory from my childhood, whole yellow pea soup (with ham), which is very pleasing on a cold winter night.

I think it’s a Scandinavian thing. My mother used to make this all the time when I was in Minnesota, but when the family moved to New Mexico, whole yellow peas could not be found in any of the stores. We could have had split pea soup, but I never really cared for it— the split peas half-dissolve to form a kind of slurry that has an unpleasant mouth feel. I much preferred the feel of whole yellow peas that hadn’t dissolved, and that I could bite into.

It no longer matters what the local stores carry or don’t. Amazon carries about fifteen brands of whole yellow peas, and I ordered a pound sack. Here’s the recipe if you care to try it.


1 pound whole yellow dried peas.

Ham bone.

8 oz cubed ham

Bay leaf.

1 large chopped onion.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Thyme to taste.

8 cups chicken stock.

Put the peas in a non-reactive bowl and fill with water 2 inches above the level of the peas. Soak overnight.

Drain the water. Put chicken stock in a stock pot, then add all ingredients but the cubed ham. Make sure the liquid covers the peas by at least two inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 90-120 minutes. During the last half hour, add the cubed ham.

The soup is done when the peas have ceased to be crunchy. Remove ham bone and serve. (The soup, not the ham bone.)

If you want to do the Swedish version (Ärtsoppa), add a swirl of whole-grain mustard to the center of the soup bowl. Being New Mexican, I added red pepper flakes.

Since it’s a soup, you are encouraged to add anything you think might enhance its flavor. Some versions call for carrots, celery, and/or ginger. There’s another version that calls for bacon instead of ham.

There’s also a French-Canadian version that I’m not familiar with. I’m sure it will get you through a cold winter night, though.

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