French Canadian Pea Soup

Mention pea soup to most Americans and they will most likely think of the version made from split green peas and used to great effect in The Exorcist. But to a French Canadian or Scandinavian the phrase conjures up a rich golden porridge made from whole yellow peas known as soup peas and flavored with meat, usually ham, and root vegetables—onions carrots, turnips, parsnips, etc. (Unless you live in Québec, northern New England, or near an IKEA store you will probably have to make do with split yellow peas.) What may come as a surprise to many is that Québécois pea soup often incorporates hominy (blé d’Inde lessivé) to which the settlers of New France were introduced by Native Americans. If you can find, or make, herbes salées (Québécois salted herbs) by all means add them at the end. A bit of dry sherry and perhaps a dollop of crème fraiche stirred in at the table is nice too.

Note: When I make pea soup I make a large pot of it and freeze it in quart containers. If you chose to make less this recipe scales easily.

Ingredients

 

Dried yellow peas

2 pounds

1 kg

Meaty ham bone

1

1

Onions, chopped

2 medium

2 medium

Carrots, scraped and chopped

2 medium

2 medium

Water

6 quarts

6 liters

Ground cloves

½ teaspoon

2½ ml

Ground black pepper

to taste

to taste

Dried white hominy*

6 ounces

180 grams

Herbes salées, optional

¼ cup

120 ml

Salt

to taste

to taste

*Note: two drained 15-ounce cans of hominy can be substituted for the dry

Method

Most recipes call for the dried peas to be soaked for several hours or overnight. Most authorities agree that this is unnecessary so I do not soak my peas. If you chose to do so you can reduce the first cooking time by about ½ hour. And if you use canned hominy you can reduce the second cooking time to about 30 minutes.

Rinse the peas well and put them into a large soup pot along with the hambone, onion, and carrot. Add the water, ground cloves, and a generous grind of black pepper. Bring to a boil, skimming off the foam as it forms. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently for 1½ hours. While the soup is simmering, soak the dried hominy in cold water.

After 1½ hours, remove the hambone from the soup and set aside to cool. Using a stick blender, or in batches in a food processor, puree the soup to a smooth consistency. Drain the hominy and add to the soup. Return to a low simmer, uncovered, for another hour adding a bit of water as needed. The soup will tend to stick to the bottom of the pot a bit so stir it frequently, scraping up any stuck bits. When the hambone is cool enough to handle, remove the meat, chop it, and add to the pot. When done, stir in the herbes salées, if using, and salt the soup to taste.

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6 responses to “French Canadian Pea Soup

  1. sweetopiagirl December 10, 2011 at 18:14

    Reblogged this on Inspiredweightloss.

  2. Jack Siciliano April 10, 2015 at 13:08

    Leo – I am so excited to have landed upon this recipe. For years I have been searching for a pea soup recipe that is Québécois and includes hominy—what my am emerge used to call “hulled corn,” accurately or not. Thank you for posting it. I am hoping it’ll taste and smell akin to find memories of the porridgey soup Memere used to make and feed her small army of a family with when I was a kid. Every Christmas and Easter I look at that leftover ham and have done searches for a recipe that seems like what she used. This looks like it! I do not have the herbes salees, but will do my best with what I have based on what herbes May have formed the base, though not salted. Again, thanks for posting, for taking the time to blog your endeavors so well, so enjoyably written.

  3. Jack Siciliano April 10, 2015 at 13:10

    PS – I am curious: you did not site a source as a basis. Is this recipe something reaching back in to your family memory, too?

    • Leo Cotnoir April 10, 2015 at 16:15

      I am very glad you found and enjoyed this recipe. As for herbes salée, I have made them myself a couple of times but usually I just eat the soup with a lot of black pepper.

      This recipe is really an amalgamation of many. Ironically, my mother made it with green split peas, ham hocks, and hominy while my paternal grandmother made it with yellow peas and no hominy. The first published recipe I found with the hominy came from “Vers une nouvelle cuisine Québécoise” by the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (Québec: Éditions Élysée, 1979). In French it is called “blé d’Inde lessivé.”

      • Jack April 15, 2015 at 13:31

        I combined a pound of whole green and split yellow, threw in the meaty ham bone from Easter, followed all the rest of your recipe (hominy was canned) but for the herbes salée. (I see you give a recipe to make these elsewhere in your blog, which I’ll sometime try.) Looking up herbes salée, I saw great variety, of course; so what I chose to do was use a few sprinkles of the ol’ Bell’s seasoning mix, which has several of the suggested ingredients or alternatives for herbes salée that I found in reading. The soup is delicious, and I’m very glad your recipe is large, suggesting storing some away frozen. The smells, the tastes, brought back Memére’s kitchen of my boyhood! The only thing I would change next time is to either omit puréeing the soup, or at least doing it only partially: I miss seeing the peas; and it although the taste is true, it looks more like “hominy soup” than pea soup because the hulled corn is put in after the blending. Speaking of which, I will definitely look for dried hominy next time, and would prefer a yellow, again just for the looks (the white stands out too much for me), or just because that’s what Memére used (smiles).
        Thanks again, Leo, very much, for your blog.

  4. Leo Cotnoir April 15, 2015 at 15:05

    Using Bell’s seasoning is a great idea! Yellow dried hominy should not be too difficult to find at any supermarket that carries Goya products, and most do now. Before I got a stick blender I would put the soup through a food mill. I don’t recall my mother doing so, however, so your approach is probably more authentic. I’m really glad you enjoyed my recipe!

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