Thursday, December 5, 2013
Franco-Americans fall into two camps when it comes to their preferences for split pea soups. Some are advocates of green split pea soup while others are among the group who prefer yellow. Those who prefer le vert (green) peas usually stick with this preference and seldom develop a taste for le jaune (yellow). Having a preference for one particular color pea somehow creates an aversion for the other. These entrenched preferences are usually derived from familial habits. Franco-American meres, ma tantes and memeres passed their recipes along by oral tradition with little variation in the ingredients. In other words, when a family adopted a yellow pea soup recipe there was very little chance of changing the recipe to green. Over several generations, pea soups became heirloom recipes and the tradition of using either yellow or green, eventually, became part of the family’s culinary traditions.
Although the color of the peas contributes little to the taste of each recipe, the spices and selected ingredients create distinctly different flavors. Both use pork for a base flavoring, but that’s where the similarities seem to end. Our family’s green pea soup has a milky consistency. On the other hand, yellow pea soup, often called l’habitant (a colloquial term for “country”), can be either thick or thin, but we prefer ours with no thickening added. It seems to thicken enough for out taste during the simmering.
We took advantage of being in the company of a professional food sensory panelist who is a taster for a major spice company. In other words, Linda Anselmi, our taste tester, is a chef who tastes food before spice companies put their products to market. Therefore, we decided to taste test le jaune ou le vert (yellow or green) recipes during a recent visit to her Maryland home and kitchen. Both recipes were created using our family’s recipes. These recipes have been shared among our relatives for decades and were repared specifically for this taste testing experience.
A short and professional taste test analysis follows each of the two recipes.
Jaune l’habitant (French-Canadian Country Pea Soup)
(Total cooking time approximately 2 -2/1/2 hoours)
6 slices diced bacon fried crisp, save the pieces and rendered fat for sauté
1 medium onion diced
2 stalks celery diced
1 medium carrot diced
1 clove garlic diced
1 small potato diced
8 ounces yellow split peas soaked in water for about 1 hour and drained
4 cups chicken broth
1/8 tsp. salt and a generous dash black pepper
Sauté bacon until crisp in a 4 quart sauce pot. Add diced onion, celery, carrot, garlic and small potato to hot bacon drippings with cooked bits included in the sauté. Stir fry until the onion is translucent, at least four minutes. Add four cups of chicken broth and the drained yellow split peas. Turn heat down to medium and simmer for 2-2/12 half hours. Soup will thicken as it cooks. Taste for salt and pepper add at the end of cooking, add as needed. Serves 4-6.
Professional taste tester analysis: This recipe presents with perfect consistency and viscosity. It has a nice smoky flavor. “I love the smoky flavor and the diced potatoes in the recipe,” says Anselmi.
Split Green Pea Soup a L’Heureux
(cooking time about 2-2/1/2 hours)
1 large ham bone or 2 ham hocks (ham bone preferred)
10 ounces of split green peas
6 cups of water
1 large carrot diced
1 small potato diced
1 large stalk of celery with leaves finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
½ stick of butter – 4 tablespoons
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 can evaporated milk
Celery salt to taste – depends on the saltiness of the ham bone
Melt butter in a 4-6 quart pot and immediately sauté the garlic with the chopped onion, carrot, celery and diced potato in the melted butter. Sauté until the onion is translucent about 4 minutes. Add the ham bone or hocks and the 6 cups of water with celery salt and the 10 ounces of green split peas. Cover and simmer the stock over low heat for about 2 - 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is easily separated from the bone. Remove the bone into a colander to cool. Let the soup sit for about 10 minutes and then add a can of evaporated milk and the cloves. Cut pieces of the ham off the bone to add to the soup or purchase a ham steak to dice and add to the stock. Reheat but do not boil after milk is added. Taste for salt and pepper. Serves 4-6 people.
Professional taste tester analysis: This recipe is preferred for people who like a creamy consistency to their soup. The flavor improves with the quality and quantity of the ham or pork hocks added. As a matter of fact, using several ham hocks or a very large ham bone will enhance the soup’s flavor.
Comparison tester analysis: “It wouldn’t matter if the green pea soup is made with yellow peas or visa-versa Ingredients are what differentiate these two recipes. As a matter of fact, the two recipes could even be combined and the outcome would be delicious,” says Anselmi.
Our taste test convinced us to try a combination Jaune-Vert Potage. Although, for the purists, the standard and standalone recipes are delicious, just as they are. We hadn’t previously thought about combining the two recipes, but in so doing, (and if we ever change) we’ll be preserving the delicious flavors of both in one single recipe.Tweet
Juliana L’Heureux is a freelance writer whose articles about Maine’s Franco-American history and culture have appeared in Portland newspapers for 25 years. She serves on the Maine Franco-American Leadership Council.
Juliana and her husband Richard live in Topsham ME. Feel free to contact her at Juliana@mainewriter.com.