Split pea soup recipes tend to yield a big batch, so freezing some of it makes sense. If you're worried about freezing the ham chunks, relax. Although it's true that freezing does alter the taste and texture of ham, you probably won't notice the changes in a prepared food like soup. Frozen ham is at its best in soups and casseroles.
Freezing and Quality
You've probably heard that ham shouldn't be frozen. The reason for this is that ham loses some color and flavor in the freezer. Freezing can also make the texture more watery. If properly frozen, split pea soup that contains chunks of ham will taste just fine. Freezing acts not only on the ham, but on the split peas and vegetables, as well. Cook the split peas and carrots until they're still slightly firm. The freezer will soften them and they'll soften even more when you reheat them. If you cook them too much before freezing, they'll end up mushy.
Cool the split pea soup slightly and freeze it immediately. Pack it in heavy-duty plastic bags or plastic freezer containers. The soup remains completely safe as long as the freezer maintains a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures encourage bacterial growth. For best quality, use the soup within one month of freezing it. Once ham has thawed, it becomes rancid quickly, so eat the soup within two days and keep it refrigerated.
Safe Thawing and Use
To use frozen split pea soup, place it in the refrigerator overnight to safely thaw it. Do not thaw it on the counter because this can lead to bacterial growth and food poisoning. Heat the soup on the stovetop or in the microwave until it boils or a meat thermometer reads 160 F. This thorough cooking destroys any bacteria that might be present.
Some Practical Considerations
The most convenient way to prepare split pea soup for the freezer is to make a double or triple batch when you're making the soup for dinner. Ladle some of the soup out before you season it because garlic and herbs often become bitter in the freezer. This method also ensures the vegetables won't be overcooked. Season frozen soup after you've thawed and heated it.
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Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."