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Melt butter in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and ham and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds.
Add peas, chicken stock or water, and bay leaves. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, and cover, leaving lid slightly ajar. Cook until peas are tender, about 1 hour. Remove ham hock, pick meat, and return to soup (if using). Roughly purée soup using a hand blender, or purée in batches using a countertop blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Soup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.