There’s something inherently soothing about soup. Even more so, crock pot soup. Just knowing it’s chugging away in that little heated bowl all day while the world devolves into chaos around it. In the morning you throw in dried beans or peas, vegetables, stock, perhaps a little bacon (because everything’s better with bacon), and set the heat. Crock pot soup doesn’t care how hectic your day was, how many people cut you off, how many gave you the wrong change, or even, if you were the one to miscount the change.
It sits there, quietly simmering away, just waiting for you to come along, crack the lid and marvel at the miracle that was dried legume and crisp vegetable, but now: soft, tender and perfectly married. It’s the ideal way to end a biting winter’s day. Just prep, fill, set and forget.
It’s also the perfect way to end a day that resulted in canceled gym membership, canceled TV services, and over $300 poorer (thank you student loans). I’ve never been very successful at cooking dried beans on the stove. They always disappoint. But dried beans and peas in the slow cooker? Impeccable. For a girl on a serious budget, dried legumes are my new best friend. And the slow cooker? Our match maker. One day and one bag of dried split peas leads to a freezer bag full of the most sumptuous split pea soup I’ve ever tasted. It’s creamy and rich; cheap and filling.
Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup
Makes 8-10 servings
Adapted from CHOW
1 pound dried green split peas, picked clean and rinsed.
2 medium carrots, medium dice
2 medium celery sticks, medium dice
1/2 medium yellow onion, medium dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 Tablespoon dried parsley (or 2 sprigs fresh, if you have it, which I didn’t)
1 Bay leaf
1/2 pound turkey bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (omit or substitute vegetarian option if desired)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth, if vegetarian)
2 cups water
salt and pepper, to taste (approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper)
1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Arrange the split peas in the slow cooker in an even layer. Top with the carrots, celery, onion, garlic and herbs. If you want, you can tie the herbs in a bundle with cooking string. This way they will be easier to fish out later. Layer the turkey bacon on top of the vegetables.
Pour the chicken broth and water over everything and season with salt and pepper.
Cover and cook for 5 to 6 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low, or until the peas are very soft.
Remove the herb bundle (if you tied them together) or fish out the bay leaf and all herb stems. Stir in the fresh squeezed lemon juice, adding more if needed. At this point the soup is ready to be enjoyed!
This soup freezes very well. To freeze, I ladled the soup into muffin tins and froze them until they were solid. Then, I quickly dunked the bottom of the muffin tin in hot water and pried them out with a butter knife. Then, I just threw them all in a freezer bag and I’ll have nice servings sizes of soup all winter long! This technique works well for other types of soups and sauces too. Two or three “pucks” heat up nicely in a coffee mug or bowl for a quick meal.