French Canadian Pea Soup à la Habitant

This post is for all of my displaced Canadian friends….a recipe for something resembling Habitant French Canadian Pea Soup. I was lucky to discover this canned soup as a broke university student, and I know I wasn’t the only one in on the well-kept secret. This soup was so good and filling and could often be found on special for a few dollars a big can. That’s less than a dollar a  meal! But as much as the price made it appealing, so did the comfort factor. I can still remember Saturday afternoons in a cold Toronto winter, walking home to my cold and damp apartment after the morning shift as a receptionist at a spa. I’d heat the soup, butter a toasted rosemary bagel, fill my belly, and get into my futon for a long nap.

When I first moved to New York, I would bring back cans when I could. That got cumbersome, and really, it was a little silly of me to bring back canned soup, right? I also hauled back canned tuna because I was convinced the Canadian kind was better. Anyway, I really didn’t start experimenting with my own concoction of something resembling the Habitant Pea until recently. Google French Canadian Pea Soup and you’ll find plenty of recipes. This is the one I put together based on a few of them. I make mine in the slow cooker, but a few hours on the stove would work fine too, I’m sure. Now here’s the recipe:

Habitant-ish French Canadian Pea Soup

Makes about 12 cups

3 cups dried yellow split peas, soaked overnight
9 cups of water
1 cup of chopped celery
1 cup of chopped onion
1 cup of chopped carrots
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 pound of bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 ham bone*
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of dried rhyme
2 teaspoons of sugar (strange but I see it listed as a secret ingredient in other recipes
1 tbsp. of white vinegar

In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the bacon until slightly crisped and most of the fat has been rendered. Drain on paper towels and pour out most of the fat from the skillet. Make sure you leave a slick behind, along with all the brown bits. Then add the celery, carrots, onion, and garlic. Sauté until tender.

In a slow cooker, combine all of the ingredients except the vinegar. Set it on low for 8 or 10 hours, depending on the timeframe that suits you.

Remove the bay leaves and ham bone (if using) and pick off any meat and return to the soup.

This is an optional step, but I highly recommend it for getting the same consistency as the Habitant variety: blend slightly with an immersion blender.

Add the vinegar and stir well.

Serve with some buttery bread, enjoy, and take a nap!

*I know the ham bone is essential, but I didn’t have time to get one from the butcher shop. So instead, I just used a whole pound of bacon. I think the result was pretty much the same.

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5 Responses to French Canadian Pea Soup à la Habitant

  1. It’s in the slow cooker! I didnt have a ham bonre or enough bacon so I used chorizo, will let you know how it goes. Seeing as we have 12 viewings this week it will keep us going! X

  2. Oliver and Bonaccini opened up a new resto at the Bay- it’s called “Bannock”, anyway they have the most delish pea soup. The donut recipe on the same page is pretty good too. We should go next time. xo A.

  3. Thanks for trying to recreate this recipe. I lived in Canada during most of my 20s. How I miss this soup! Still. First ate it at rest stops on the 401. I find the small yellow pea halves we get in the States doesn’t match the full white peas used in Habitant Pea Soup. I can get those every once in a while, but they still didn’t match the real thing. Your ideas about using an immersion blender, vinegar, and sugar should help. I think I may precook the whole peas, first. Thanks, again!

    • Thanks, Cathe! Let me know how it works out…and make sure you save some for the next few days. I found the soup tasted more ‘habitantesue’ as the flavors mingled in the fridge!

  4. Pingback: Time flying…and 13 more salads | Brooklyn Baba

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