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Make 6 cups of ham stock using either left over ham bone or store bought hamhock - sometimes for a little kick I use a smoked ham or ham hock. Put the ham hocks or ham bone in a pot add 8 quarts of water and the bay leaves and cook on a slow simmer for about 2 hours - this should yield about 6 cups of stock. Let this cool and then taste. **If it is salty then add plain water first and then chicken stock to create a total of 5 additional cups of liquid - total stock should equal about 10 to 12 cups. Put cooled stock in refrigerator to allow fat to rise to the top. Skim off as much fat as possible and set aside.
Dump the uncooked peas in a dish and pick over.take out any rocks, off color peas etc. Then put them in a pot and add water. Remove any floating debris. Drain and set aside.
In a large stock pot, heat 2 - 4 Tablespoons of the ham fat on a medium high heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute till tender.
Add all the remaining ingredients except the salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Taste. Now add salt and pepper as needed. Continue to cook for an additional 45 minutes or until peas are tender.
Remove the bay leaf.
Final step. If you like lumpy, clear broth pea soup then leave as is and enjoy. If you want it a little thick then partially puree 1/2 of the soup and if you want no lumps.Puree away.we use one of those blender sticks and mash around till its partially pureed.
Hope you all enjoy.