Saturday, June 28, 2014

Betsy: Peas Soup (Or, Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Cold...)

One of the goals I have had with these challenges is to try and make every-day fare - things that our forebears might have eaten as a matter of course, rather than fancy food meant to impress. I also have a goal of developing a repertoire of simple foods that could be cooked at events.

So, what kind of simple soup to make? I decided pretty early to try a pea soup/porridge. I found the perfect recipe in Eliza Leslie's Directions for Cookery from 1837:

Not so difficult, but interesting enough and has some interesting flavor palettes with the mint. I had to wait until very late in the challenge to make it because, unsurprisingly, it takes for-freaking-ever to make, and I didn't want to have to slave over a stove after work for dinner at midnight, so I needed a free weekend day.

The Challenge: Soups, Sauces and Gravies

The Recipe: Eliza Leslie's Directions for Cookery, found on Google Books

The Date/Year and Region: 1837, United States

How Did You Make It: I started by soaking the dried split peas overnight. I browned the beef - this isn't explicitly stated in the recipe, but I thought I'd do it anyway since that's kind of a staple of soup-making. Then, I basically chucked the peas, beef, bacon and mint together as the recipe stated. I halved everything since I didn't have a stock pot handy and I'm all by my onesies so I don't need five gallons of soup.

Fact: You can't get dried mint at any grocery stores around these parts. Some folks even looked at me like I was really nuts. So, based on a recipe for "green peas soup" in the same volume, I put a sprig of mint in the pot and took it out after 20 minutes of boiling. After three hours at a steady simmer, the peas were getting pretty mushy, so I added in the celery and let it sit for about another hour.

The recipe said to strain it, so I strained some of it into a bowl for taste-testing purposes.

Time to Complete: 4 hours or so

Total Cost: About $14.86. The peas were very cheap, I only used a spring of the mint, and the celery was free. It sounds like a lot for a soup, but I am pretty sure I have a gallon and a half leftover after dinner tonight. Divvying it up into 10 generous portions makes it about $1.50/serving. Not bad.

How Successful Was It?: It wasn't bad. The flavors were really interesting - the celery was very strong, although celery admittedly isn't my favorite vegetable. I may try celery seed next time to see how that goes. The mint is interesting mixed with the celery and the bacon flavors - not bad, just interesting. I definitely prefer it with some meat in it. It's also really, REALLY thick - when it got cold, it was basically sold. Not a bad thing, in my book, but you'll definitely need to thin it out if you plan to reheat (in the pot, nine days old, couldn't resist). It looks really, really pretty though - I was worried the beef/bacon might make it a little gray, and had some spinach on hand in case I wanted to add some juice for green, but it turned out a lovely, muted green.

How Accurate Is It?: Pretty darn accurate, I'd say. I followed the recipe closely, and the only modifications I made were using fresh mint instead of dried, and browning the beef to start. 

To start: all the ingredients in the pot, ready to simmer for hours

After the celery is added - peas starting to achieve complete mushification

The finished product - pretty tasty, in an unconventional way!

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