The origin of the above children’s rhyme is unknown, but refers to a type of porridge that, in the middle ages, was made from peas. The earliest known recorded version of the children’s rhyme can be found in John Newberry’s Mother Goose Melody (c. 1760).

Now here’s what’s interesting about old nursery rhymes–they often contained a nucleus of history and this is true of Pease Porridge. In the middle ages, when many folks were terribly poor–and undoubtedly always hungry–a pot or kettle hung over the fireplace fire and all bits and pieces of food were added to it on a daily basis. I remember reading that the pot of soup on the back of the stove is still a practice in remote parts of France. Whatever bits and pieces acquired today will be in tomorrow’s pot of soup which is kind of like a perpetual pot.

Well, I went to the trouble of searching for some recipes for ham and split pea soup (or just pea soup) originally because I thought my sister wanted a recipe (also got to thinking – why does anyone need a recipe for split pea soup? Can’t you just throw it together or isn’t there a basic recipe on the bag of dried peas?) – Nonetheless, curiosity won out (and my sister wanted a vegetable soup recipe, not one for peas). Oh, well. By now I had a small stack of recipe cards from my soup files. So–of course–I thought of sharing these on my Blog.

To start things off, here is a recipe for Low-Fat Split Pea soup.

To make LOW FAT SPLIT PEA SOUP, you will need:

8 oz dry split peas
1 medium size onion, chopped
1 medium size carrot, peeled and sliced (or chopped)
3 chicken bouillon cubes
5 cups water
1 tsp curry powder*
¾ tsp salt
Dash cayenne pepper

Rinse and sort dry peas. In a 4 quart saucepan over medium-high heat, combine peas and remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer 50 minutes or until peas are tender. Makes 5 servings. Recipe can be doubled but if doubled, increase water to 8 cups, not 10.

*Sandy’s cooknote: I don’t like curry powder. If you do by all means add it. If you don’t, then I suggest substituting a teaspoon of Beau Monde seasoning, which I just love-and it goes with almost any kind of recipe.


To make NORWEGIAN PEA SOUP you will need:

1 pound pkg dried whole or split yellow peas
7 cups water
1 ½ cups finely chopped carrots
1 ½ cups finely chopped onion
½ tsp marjoram leaves
2 ½ pounds fully cooked smoked ham, cubed (shank end preferred)*
1 cup thinly sliced celery
2 cups (8 oz) grated Jarlsberg cheese

Rinse and drain peas. In heavy, large saucepan combine peas and water and bring to a boil. Cove and set aside for at least an hour (if using split peas, skip this step).

Add carrots, onion, & marjoram and bring to boil. Cover and simmer 1 hour. Add celery and cook until peas mash easily, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Ladle sop into bowls and pass the cheese. Nice to serve with croutons.

*Sandy’s cooknote: You may use the bone and cubed ham from a baked, fully cooked smoked ham. In fact, it’s when we are polishing a ham shank that I start thinking whether to make ham and bean soup, or ham and split pea. If you don’t want to make soup right away, wrap the ham bone in aluminum foil, label it and put into the freezer to use later.
The following is from a very old newspaper clipping. I have no idea who Eva was. But in order to make EVA’S SPLIT PEA SOUP, you will need:

2 cups dry green peas
10 cups cold water
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
bacon fat
1 ham bone or 2 smoked ham hocks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp marjoram
Frankfurters, sliced in 1” pieces, optional
Hot buttered croutons

Soak peas in water overnight. Next day, sauté onion and carrots in bacon fat until onions are tender. Add peas, with liquid. Add ham bone, garlic, salt, pepper and marjoram. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove ham bone, trim off meat and return to soup (Bone can be reused for other soup or discarded).
Correct seasoning, if needed, and add frankfurters, if wished. Serve with hot buttered croutons.
The following is a very nice vegetarian split pea soup

To make VEGETARIAN SPLIT PEA SOUP, you will need:

2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups dried split peas
½ cup barley
¾ tsp salt
8 cups water
2 medium carrots, peeled & chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
¼ cup freshly chopped dill (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 TBSP dried parsley
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 TBSP red wine vinegar*
Dashes of hot pepper sauce (optional)

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add the peas, barley, salt and water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add the cartots, potatoes, celery and spices (leaving only the vinegar and hot sauce to add at the end). Simmer another hour; add water when necessary or if you desire a thin soup. Test the soup; vegetables should be tender. Add vinegar and hot sauce just before serving. Makes 10 servings.

*Sandy’s cooknote: This is an interesting variation with the vinegar added just before serving. If you have German or Hungarian roots, you will always have some kind of vinegar (usually apple cider vinegar) on the table to splash into your bowl of soup, if it is split pea or any kind of bean soup. We keep white vinegar in a carafe on the table. Bob wouldn’t eat pea or bean soup without some vinegar added to it. Neither would my brothers!
This last recipe is printed on a very old card and was tested by someone named Mary Martensen, a home economics editor at the Chicago Herald-American–however long ago that may have been. What I like is that this is a very simple recipe for making a cream type split pea soup.

To make MARY’S SPLIT PEA SOUP you will need:

1 cup dried split peas
2 ½ quarts cold water
1 pint milk
½ onion
2” cube fat salt pork
3 TBSP butter or margarine
2 TBSP flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Pick over peas and soak several hours in cold water to cover. Drain, add cold water, pork and onion. Simmer 3 or 4 hours or until soft. Put through a sieve*. Add butter and flour and seasonings blended together. Dilute with the milk, adding more milk if necessary. Note the water in which a ham has been cooked may be used. Omit the salt.

Sandy’s cooknote: If you don’t have a sieve, you can blend the peas in your blender but I would suggest cooling it down somewhat, first, and only do half a blender-full at a time so it doesn’t splash. When I make pea soup I like to cook the peas and whatever other ingredients (carrots, onion) -except meat – and blend it in my blender to make it smooth. Then add some leftover ham if you want it in your soup. We like very thick soups, more like chowders. What I usually do is cook a hambone and then set it aside. Use the stock from the hambone then to cook the peas. (And if you take the time to chill the stock, you can easily remove the fat that rises to the top and solidifies). While the peas are cooking, cool the hambone and remove all the bits of meat to put back into the pot later.
Ok, it’s a little more work this way–but you will have a fine pot of soup.

Happy Cooking!


11 responses to “PEASE PORRIDGE HOT (PEA SOUP)

  1. Hi Sandy,
    I read your articles Wendy’s Inky Trail online newspaper. I have been a pen pal of Imogene Chenore since November 2008. I am very concerned if you know if she is alright. She mentioned one time that she pen pals with you. I have not heard from her since June of this year. She always responds quickly to my letters. Do you know if she is mentioned whether she is ill or if something has happened to her? I enjoy her letters telling me all about the “retired folks’s” home where she lives. But, I do not have the name of it to write to them there regarding her whereabouts. Please let me know if you have heard from her recently. Thanks, Cyndy Ebner

  2. GRE8T collection of recipes Sandy. I’m saving this link for National Split Pea Week the second week in November!!!

    Thanks for sharing…BTW, I’m having a free recipe book give-away on my blog. Stop by if you get a chance…A Tart Day for a Give-Away

  3. Rebecca christian

    I was interested in the Mary Martensen recipe. I worked as a test kitchen home economist in the test kitchen of Chicago’s American newspaper from 1967-1970. Mary Martensen was the nom de plume of the food editor who at that time was Dorothy Thompson. We had about 35,000 recipes in our files and they are still some of my best ones. Wish I had those files now!

    • How cool is this? I had NO idea who Mary Martensen was (I did suspect that it could have been a nom de plume) – but I am tickled pink that someone (you) recognized the name & could add more information about her. What happened to the recipes in the files? Does that newspaper still exist? I know so many of them have gone under & recipe columns don’t seem to get as much coverage as they used to. My all time favorite was Fern Storer who wrote for the Cincinnati Enquirer for many years; a few years ago I found a cookbook she wrote at a used book store in Cincinnati. Way back when, whenever my parents were coming to California to visit & would ask what I wanted, I asked for Ruebel’s Rye bread and Fern Storer’s food columns. THANK you for writing, Rebecca! You have just made my day!

  4. Rebecca christian

    Dear Sandy,

    Chicago’s American was eliminated as the afternoon paper of the Chicago Tribune around 1970 or 71. Don’t know if the Tribune kept the recipes or not. There are Chicago Tribune cookbooks but I don’t think they had any American recipes. Each paper owned by the Tribune as well as the Chicago Daily News had test kitchens at the time. We tested every recipe that went in the American. Those days are long gone! Becky

    • Dear Becky,
      Thanks for the information; would you object to my quoting some of your comments about the Chg Tribune if I were to put together something about food editors of yesteryear? I sense a wealth of material here just waiting to be tapped. Thanks for writing!

  5. Rebecca christian

    Quote away. Too often things are in print but not tested. I worked for Chicago’s American from 1967-1969.

  6. This is for Sandy, I have a page from food section of the Chicago Herald American dated Thurs. June 22,1950. There is an article by Mary Martensen and recipes. I would be happy to send you a copy of it if you would like. Just send me your name and address and I will get it off to you.
    Linda Hanson

  7. I have my grandmothers collection of recipes and cookbook. In there I found 2 pages of dumpling recipes from the Chicago Herald American, Home Economics Department, Mary Martensen, Director. They are hand typed and the photo copied from some sort of note book then mailed to my grandmother. I was interested so I did alittle research. The Newspaper was the Chicago Evening American from 1914-1939 then it became the Chicago Herald-American 1939-1953 then the Chicago American from 1953-1969.
    Tina Aiello
    Milwaukee, Wi

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