Pea soup is a staple in many cuisines for thousands of years and is made similarly in almost all of them. It is considered food for the poor and was cooked aboard ships, served almost daily, because peas could be transported and kept for long periods without going bad.
It was also used during the Franco-Prussian War to feed the German army whereby the first, industrially produced food was invented and came to be known as "Erbswurst" or Pea Sausage, for the way it was packaged.
Notes on Pea Soup
Dried peas can be purchased whole, with the skin on and as split peas, with the skin removed. Either kind make a good soup, but the whole peas need to be soaked overnight, will take slightly longer to cook and keep their shape a bit longer.
Also, the older the peas are (the longer they have sat on the shelf) the longer they will take to become soft.
Cooking times are longer at higher elevations.
Directions for Pea Soup
- Soak the whole peas in 1 to 2 quarts (liters) of water overnight (no need to soak split peas).
- The next day, chop the bacon into small pieces and render in a large pan. Remove some of the fat, but keep a couple of tablespoons in the pan for flavor.
- Drain the soaked peas and add to the pan with 4 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil. Be careful, as the peas have a tendency to foam, so turn the heat down if you see that happening. You can also add a teaspoon of oil to the pan to help prevent foaming.
- The pork chops, or Kasseler Koteletts (Kasseler ham sliced into pork chops, about 1/2 inch thick) should be trimmed and cubed. Add the meat and/or the little, smoked sausages (whole or chopped).
- Clean and peel the onions, leek and celeriac (use celery if celeriac is not available). Chop into 1/2 inch dice and add to the pot.
- Place a lid on the pot, turn the heat down and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. The soup is ready when the peas are soft, but have not yet lost their shape.
- Salt and pepper to taste. If the soup tastes a little flat, you can stir in a little vinegar at this point, or let everyone add a bit of vinegar (white, malt or balsamic vinegars are good) at the table.
- Serve with fresh bread and beer. You can garnish with crispy bacon bits or croutons, if you like. Guten Appetit!
Don't forget to check out these other, German soup recipes: