French-Canadian Habitant Pea Soup Recipe 2019 – Savory Is a Must!

My wife and I were vacationing in southern Manitoba a few years ago and for part of the trip stayed in a yurt at Spruce Woods Provincial Park.

We had a small camp stove with us to prepare our meals in the park, and in one of the local grocery stores found a large can of Habitant Pea Soup.

We both love split pea soup, so I bought the can of Habitant and later heated it up for a quick lunch. It wasn’t “homemade” good, but for a canned soup it tasted much better than I expected. And everything tastes better when you’re cooking and eating outdoors.

Habitant French-Canadian Pea Soup

French-Canadian Pea Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had made split pea soup many times before, but it was always Swedish style, where split pea soup is a national institution. In Sweden, pea soup can be found on tables across the country on Thursdays, when it is traditionally served. I later learned that pea soup has a history in French-Canadian cooking, where the hearty soup has long been served in kitchens and restaurants across Quebec.

What makes the French-Canadian version so tasty is the use of savory, a very underrated herb that doesn’t get the attention in the States that it does across the northern border. And where I would use a piece of ham for Swedish-style pea soup, for the Habitant version I use salt pork. Because this recipe uses water and not broth or stock, it stands up to heavier doses of dried herbs for flavoring.

How to make Habitant Pea Soup, French Canadian-style

1 pound yellow split peas (there is no difference in flavor between yellow and green split peas, but yellow peas are traditional in Quebec)
1/2 pound salt pork, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 quarts water
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried savory
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

  • Rinse the peas under cold water and put them into a large Dutch oven or soup pot and cover them with cold water and allow to soak overnight
  • Drain the peas and rinse again
  • Place the salt pork pieces at the bottom of the Dutch oven/soup pot
  • Add the onion, carrots, celery and peas
  • Sprinkle savory over everything, add water and bay leaf
  • Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cover partially for 1 hour
  • Stir occasionally and skim off any foam with a slotted spoon
  • Remove cover and cook for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, until peas are tender (add more water as needed)
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve

If you want to finish the soup with flair, try a bit of chopped fresh parsley and/or a sprinkle of red wine vinegar.

I would love to hear from anyone with French-Canadian roots who grew up eating this soup. Maybe you have an heirloom recipe that beats them all!

Looking for the perfect pot to cook up your next batch of soup? I recommend the Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. It comes in 11 different colors and is an excellent value for the price.

 

4 thoughts on “French-Canadian Habitant Pea Soup Recipe 2019 – Savory Is a Must!

  1. Georgianna Clark

    I love this soup . It’s the ONLY pea soup I like. I live in northeast New York and just learned that my local store (tops at zip 12972) no longer4 carries this . . . I wonder if its available in the NYS area ? near Plattsburgh (12901) area???

    Reply
    1. Todd Post author

      Hi. I agree – for a canned soup, the Habitant Pea Soup is one of the best and has a very distinctive flavor and texture. After a bit of research, it appears that Campbell’s is no longer distributing the soup to the United States. That leaves you with two options – either purchase online from a seller on Amazon or cross the border (into Quebec in your case) to buy the soup. It’s very expensive on Amazon – roughly $13/can and on up. There is an IGA in Lacolle, Quebec (https://www.iga.net/fr/recherche_de_magasin/magasin/0379?utm_source=G&utm_medium=lpm&utm_campaign=SobeysMontreal) that’s less than 1 hour drive – straight north on Interstate 87 – from your zip code. You can find the real deal there (https://www.iga.net/en/product/soupfrench-canadian-pea/00000_000000006321131111) for about $2/can figuring in the current US-Canada exchange rate. Grab a big shopping bag and cross the border to stock up!

      Reply
  2. Mike

    My mother was French Canadian and we ate lots of this soup!
    However true French Canadian pea soup uses WHOLE Yellow peas. Habitant brand pea soup also uses WHOLE yellow peas. Otherwise the soup turns to mush

    Reply
    1. Todd Post author

      You’re absolutely right. Whole yellow peas are the way to go, if you can find them. I like to use Lars Yellow Peas – they are whole peas used for a similar soup that’s very popular in Sweden. In fact, it’s something of a tradition in the country to have pea soup on Thursdays. They work great for French Canadian Pea Soup, too!

      Reply

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