Estonian recipes: yellow split pea soup with smoked pork (hernesupp suitsulihaga)

Estonian split pea soup with smoked ham / Hernesupp

It's Shrove Tuesday next week, and before feasting on delicious Lenten buns (I've blogged about the classic ones, chocolate ones and luscious raspberry and marzipan ones), Estonians eat split pea soup. Thick, hearty, well-flavoured (smoked pork!) and textured (peas + pearl barley) - all the elements of a substantial and delicious winter soup are present. Here's a recipe that I've been using for years to make a big (I mean it!) pot of delicious soup.

It's a fusion recipe, of a kind. You see - apparently in the Southern Estonia, they used to put barley in the split pea soup; in the North, they replaced the pearl barley with cubed carrots and potatoes. I use them all, so it's a meet-me-in-the-middle soup :)

Note that the soup reheats very well. As it thickens when cooling, you may need to add some water when reheating it, and adjusting the seasoning again, if necessary. 

Estonian Yellow Split Pea Soup with Smoked Pork
(Hernesupp suitsulihaga)
Serves eight to ten

Split pea soup with smoked pork rib / Hernesupp suitsuribiga

200 g yellow split peas
150 g pearl barley
3 litres of water
about 1 kg of smoked pork - rib, cheek or hock
1 large onion
2 to 3 large carrots
2 large potatoes
salt to taste
2 to 3 tsp sharp mustard (or to taste)
fresh herbs (parsley, celery, dill, thyme, savory)

Pick through the peas and pearl barley to remove any grit. Place into a bowl, pour over enough cold water to cover by couple of centimetres and leave to soak. (This reduces the cooking time considerably).

Place the smoked pork into a large bowl (definitely larger than 5 litres!). Add the 3 litres of water and bring slowly into a boil. Remove any froth and scum that appears on the surface.
Rinse the soaked barley and peas, drain and add to the saucepan. Bring to a boil again, then reduce heat, cover with a lid and simmer gently for about an hour.
Meanwhile, peel and chop (or grate coarsely) the onion, carrots and potatoes. If you wish, you can sauté the onion and carrots in some oil - this enhances the flavour.
Add the vegetables to the soup and continue simmering for about half an hour, until the meat and vegetables are fully cooked.
Take the pork out of the soup, remove the meat from the bones and chop finely. Return the chopped meat into the saucepan.
Season the soup with mustard and salt, add some herbs of your choice and serve.
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