Until recently, I didn’t know that the age of dried legumes made a difference in their cooking time, but it does. If your dried split peas are fairly fresh, they will take less time to cook than those that have sat on the grocery store shelf for a while. In any case, cook them until they completely break down. If yours are on the older side, you may need to start with a little more water than I call for below, since the cooking time will be on the long side.
In a soup pot or Dutch oven, warm a little olive oil over medium high heat. Add the ham, and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides. Add the leek and carrot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned, about 10 minutes. (If the pan seems dry when you add the vegetables, add oil as needed.) Add the split peas and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring regularly to prevent scorching, for 90 minutes to 2 hours, or until the peas have completely broken down and the soup has a creamy texture. This amount of water makes for a fairly thick soup; if you like yours thinner, add more water until it reaches your desired texture. The slice of ham should break apart as it cooks, but if necessary, use a couple of forks to tear it into smaller pieces. Taste the soup, and salt as needed. If the flavor is a little dull, add a splash or two of apple cider vinegar; you shouldn’t taste the vinegar in the soup, but it should subtly wake up the flavor.
Yield: about 6 servings