Maine dish: Smoky and filling for cold season

As winter deepens, colder temperatures and fewer daylight hours trigger biological changes that stimulate hunger and increase our cravings for more energy-dense food. Our cooking and eating patterns shift from grilling burgers and salads to comfort foods like hearty soups and stews.

One of our family’s favorite soups is split pea. Either yellow or green, the split pea is actually a “field pea” grown specifically for drying. Once dried, the pea pods are split along a natural seam, revealing the dried pea, hence the name split peas. A handy pantry item, split peas once were considered a peasant food. They are widely available in supermarkets. They also can be purchased quite economically in bulk at food coops and natural food stores.

There’s more good news about enjoying your porridge. Research shows that complex carbohydrates like beans and legumes provide a sustained and slow release of important nutritional benefits like protein, folate and fiber and are rich in antioxidants, vitamin B, magnesium and a good source of iron. Legumes can actually help you avoid heart disease, reduce the risk of breast cancer and help control diabetes. Plus, they warm you up from the inside out!

The recipe for this savory split pea soup is just a guide. For a vegetarian version, omit the meat and use a seasoned veggie stock. No ham bone? Add cooked sausage at the end for a delicious twist. Serve with hot cornbread and Maine applesauce.


Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. She welcomes food-related questions and comments at [email protected]


Split Pea Soup

Makes 8 or more servings


2 cups green or yellow split peas

1 onion chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 pieces celery or ½ cup chopped celeriac

1 bay leaf

1 ham bone or ham hock

2 cups ham stock, chicken or veggie stock or water

½ tsp. both dried thyme and marjoram

Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste


Assemble ingredients and tools.

Add the split peas to a colander and rinse under cold running water. Pick the peas over, discarding any discolored ones and small stones. If desired, soak them overnight with enough water to cover by 2 inches. (This step does reduce cooking time but is not necessary.)

Drain the split peas. Add the peas, onion, carrots, celery, ham bone and herbs to a heavy soup pot or the bowl of your slow cooker. Add water or stock to cover the vegetables by 3 inches. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer until soft. This will take about 10 to 12 hours on low in the slow cooker, or 2 to 3 hours on the stovetop or wood stove. If cooking over direct heat, be sure to stir the soup often, as the peas will stick to the bottom.

Remove the ham bone and bay leaf. Season the soup to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper. If a very smooth texture is desired, the soup may be pureed with an immersion blender or in the food processer.

Split pea soup freezes well. To reheat, add more water or milk.


Nutritional analysis per serving (varies with meat): 216 calories, 14 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fat, 300 mg. sodium, 13 grams fiber.

Cheryl Wixson
"Maine Dish" columnist Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. Her passion for organic Maine products led to the creation of her business, Cheryl Wixson's Kitchen. She welcomes food-related questions and comments at [email protected] or
Cheryl Wixson

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