My siblings and I grew up eating luscious homemade soups, but, nothing that my mother cooked. We had a Hungarian housekeeper, Ann Kaufman. (Before Ann came to work for us, when I was 1 year old, she was married briefly to a Jewish man who died shortly after they married, that’s how she ended up with a different name, rather than her maiden Hungarian name of Markefka.) Ann cooked for my three younger siblings and I and our parents. The taste of soup, the reminder of its memory holds fast for me.. Therefore, when the holidays roll around, and during other times too, when Denver is cold and snowy, I enjoy making soup, and split pea and barley are two choices for me, together or separate. I used more split pea than barley this time, and for the first time ever, I put half of each, once they were well-cooked and tender, in a food processor, which heightened the creaminess! This soup improves over time and thickens nicely. Yum.
And too, since we had just finished Thanksgiving, I had frozen portions of turkey tucked away. It was nice to do this and not use ham, which I’m not terribly fond of. Plus, I have a friend who converted to Judaism fifteen years ago and does not eat pork products; I’m pleased to give her soup which she really likes and appreciates my doing this because she’s not a cook or baker.
I’ve been retired for a decade, and now I relax more in the kitchen, no rushing around. Since I made turkey stock from scratch, I cut up carrots, onions and celery, twice, once for stock, next for the soup itself. I add large pieces of turkey bones with leftover meat attached, and simmer this for 3-4 hours, along with peppercorns, thyme, other herbs, and several teaspoons of salt.
As I cook more fresh veggies again for the soup– carrots, celery and onion, I cut these vegetables in half inch pieces. While I’m cooking the second set of vegetables, I’m still slowly-simmering the large turkey pieces and the leftover meat. I truly enjoy sauteing this second set of veggies; this process is a flavor enhancer for this soup or any. Switching from a low to medium heat, I cook the mixture for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, as the vegetables soften, turn translucent and only slightly golden.
After cooking for nearly fifty years, I sometimes don’t follow recipes too strictly and I use my intuition. My full recipe is below, but remember these are just guidelines, and your process may be slightly different. If you would like to share a soup recipe with me, please do so!
INGREDIENTS AND PROCESS FOR THE TURKEY STOCK
Before you begin cooking the turkey meat and the carcass, cut off any large pieces of fat rubbery skin, or large or small hunks of fat. In a large stock pot add several pieces of the turkey carcass (cut-up to fit the pot, if necessary), and bone, along with any attached meat. Add 10-15 cups of water, or more, let the water reach about 2 inches above the carcass, bones and turkey meat. Bring these items to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Add 1 large quartered onion, 4-6 carrots, cut in 2-3 inch chunks, and three celery stalks cut in thirds. Add several peppercorns, 2-3 teaspoons salt and half a teaspoon each of thyme and Italian seasoning. Cook for 3-4 hours. If the water gets too low, and the turkey is more than an inch above the water level, add more water. Again, raise the heat to a gently simmer. Cook for 3-4 hours, until the meat easily falls off the bones, remembering to remove any visible fat.
Separate the meat from the bones and carcass. Toss the bones and carcass, cut up 1-2 cups of meat for the soup. With the other leftover meat, freeze small portion in containers. I keep packs handy for sandwiches and stir fries.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SOUP
4 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 small red pepper, chopped
3 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cup split peas rinsed, or soaked for 20 minutes in water which covers them slightly
3/4 cup pearl barley
2 -3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, or another seasoning, such as soy sauce, or Maggie seasoning sauce
3/4 pound cut-up red potatoes, about one-inch chunks
2 teaspoons salt
PROCESS FOR THE SOUP
1 Cook the split peas and barley in 4-5 cups of liquid, using half water, and adding the same amount of turkey stock. Once the water mixture boils, turn it down, simmer, covered for about 40 minutes. If the water evaporates quickly, add more stock, since barley will absorb water fast overtime. Cook until peas and barley are soft, or as you like them. Cool for ten minutes. In a food processor, add at least half of this mixture and puree, but not terribly smooth. Mix it with the full pieces of peas and barley and then put off to t he side.
2 Add 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pot. When it begins to shimmer, add the the cut up vegetables, cooking them for 10 minutes on medium-low heat as they soften and caramelize. For the last two minutes, add the garlic, lowering the heat and stirring occasionally as the garlic cooks for a minute or so.
3 Add approximately 5 cups of water and 5 cups of the turkey stock, along with the bay leaves. Bring this to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 1-2 hours, adding a few more cups water or stock as the liquid reduces some. After the first hour, add the barley and split peas. About a half hour later add the potatoes. Cook about a half hour longer as the potatoes cook on medium-low. Add the Worcestershire sauce and salt. Add as much cut up turkey meat as you wish, or none at all. Adjust any seasoning. Heat again, perhaps adding more stock or water as needed, depending on how thick or thin you like your soup.
4 Serve the warm soup with croutons, a chilled salad and/or a topping of grated Parmesan cheese. This soup freezes well.