It was on the way home from a day trip to tour the wineries of Santa Barbara that I first noticed the towering dutch-style windmill looming on the horizon. As we got closer I felt a strong sense of longing for my childhood home. Having grown up in the scenic Wisconsin river valley I know I thing or two about what makes a windmill go round. In 1887, a small group of dutch immigrants settled in St. Croix County just south of my home town of Baldwin. Dutch settlers from other areas soon joined them since the land was good for dairy farming. They quickly had a thriving milk production and built a cheese factory. St. Paul was a nearby market for their cheese and soon the dutch culture was brought to life in the surrounding towns. Baldwin, in particular, had a thriving dutch population. We even had a “Dutch Days” town festival complete with wooden shoe wearing street dancers! Ultimately, the town built a giant replica of a dutch style windmill to celebrate this rich heritage. The Windmill stands today, a beautiful reminder of the hardworking dutch settlers that tamed the wild river valley. As the giant windmill on the horizon grew closer, it became apparent that it was actually attached to the “World famous Andersen’s Restaurant: The home of the split pea soup!” It’s a whole restaurant. In the shape of a windmill. Devoted to this delicious Dutch dish! It’s also the Andersen’s that puts the label on the very best canned pea soup available in your local grocery store. We pulled in and ordered up. It was a very tasty soup that night at Andersen’s. If I’m ever cruising up north I always make sure there’s enough time to stop in for a quick bowl. When I’m stuck at home I make my own version. If you’ve never tried homemade pea soup I highly recommend you give my recipe a try. Its simple ingredients make budget friendly, fast, and definitely delicious.
Thick as fog Split Pea Soup
1 Pkg. dried Split peas
1 onion diced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves minced
1 carrot diced
(optional) 16 oz diced dutch farmers sausage (polish sausage is a good substitute) or diced ham
2 spoons of powdered chicken bouillon
32 oz of chicken stock and 2 cups of reserved water
1/2 tsp pepper
salt if needed
The only preparation split peas need are a quick rinse of cold water in a strainer. Once you’ve done that set it aside while you saute your onions in olive oil. Once they are translucent add garlic and carrots, saute until they start to soften a little. If you are adding meat do so at this time and let it cook about 10 minutes. Add peas and 2 spoons of bouillon. Stir together and let peas stir fry a bit in the pan about 5 minutes. Add Chicken Stock and pepper. Bring to a boil about 10 minutes. Turn down the heat and simmer about 50 Minutes. The soup is ready when the peas are soft. You can season with salt if needed. If the soup is getting too thick for your taste (Andersen’s is very thin) Add some of the reserved water. I prefer a very thick soup. Serve with seasoned croutons. Keep in mind as leftover soup cools it will become even thicker. The soup will thin as it is warmed, but you may thin to your taste with additional water during the reheating process. Check for seasoning and add salt if needed.