I rarely post a recipe without telling the story behind it. I made an exception Tuesday evening when I published the recipe for Blue Lakes split pea soup. As I finished writing the story, it disappeared from my computer screen! In view of the late hour I thought I'd rewrite it later. Here's the story:
Midway through our week long vacation last month, we moved camp from South Lake Tahoe to the Blue Lakes in Eldorado National Forest. We had planned to join my sister and family for their annual camping trip to Upper Blue Lake. The lake has been a favorite for the last four years.
This trip was special because our mother joined us at the lake along with a brother. We planned to arrive at the campground a day early. I used the time to set up our camp and secure a campsite on the waterfront for them.
A large pot of split pea soup factored in as well. Long before our father's death in October 2007, mom and dad often enjoyed a hot bowl of soup in the evening. Mom frequently built a brothy soup around a chicken breast or small piece of meat and vegetables.
I thought mom would enjoy the ham enriched soup for her first dinner in camp. The soup would contribute a hot accompaniment to dinner and allow time to set camp up.
To start the soup, I lit the campfire around 11 a.m. The split peas, ham shank, aromatic vegetables and herbs went into a 10-inch Dutch oven with chicken broth. It took three pot hooks to suspend the pot over the fire.
The soup came to a roaring boil just after noon. I removed one pot hook to reduce the amount of heat under the Dutch oven. The soup gently simmered for the next three hours. All I had to do was feed the fire and occasionally stir the pot.
In my work kitchen I can prepare a wonderful bowl of split pea soup in two hours. Prepare the same soup at the 8,000-foot elevation mark and you must have patience. Cooking any dried peas or beans in camp at high altitude adds an additional hour or two to the cooking process.
A simmering pot of split pea soup is the perfect meal for a lazy afternoon in camp. You need to remain close to the pot to tend the campfire, stir the pot and cut the meat from the ham bone.
My sister and brother-in-law pulled up to the lake around 1:30 p.m. The truck was unloaded and two tents set up in two hours. We were ready to eat by 4 p.m.
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