Split pea soup served up in your grandma’s china makes a hearty lunch for any age – and it looks pretty garnished with a sprinkle of croutons. File photo

When there’s a chill in the air, I like to make soup.

The seasonings are what makes a good pot of soup different from a great pot of soup.

For the basics you will need salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder (if you’re lacking the fresh), dried parsley flakes, and bay leaf. To that list, I like to add red pepper flakes, thyme and savory. The last is a real favorite of mine.

I once explained what I had added to the soup that a guest liked so well. “… and savory,” was my last ingredient.

“Yes, it is very savory,” the guest replied, “but what do you add to make it taste so good?”

So, now you know – savory is both an ingredient and an adjective. And I like it best in soup.

This is the best time of the year to make soup.

It warms you up of a cold evening and it makes for an easier meal when you’ve already run out of daylight hours.

I like to get the soup going and at a simmer before starting my other chores. At a simmer, soup is pretty self-sufficient; maybe give a thicker soup, like split pea, a stir or two as you go about the house.

“Salt to taste” means just that, but do it after the cooking is done. The salty flavor can intensify as the cooking goes along, especially if you are using an already salted meat, such as ham.

These recipes serve six or two for one meal and some fine leftovers to be heated up next day for lunch or a snack.

Savory Split Pea Soup

Serves 6

  • 1 lb. dried split peas, green or yellow
  • 12 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup leftover ham scraps or ham bone, optional
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. parsley, dried, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. savory, dried, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. thyme, dried, crushed
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves (remove at end of cooking)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste (after cooking is complete)

Peas should be soaked overnight, then drained and rinsed. Lacking this: Begin the soup by covering the peas with water and bringing to a boil. Simmer for five minutes, then drain. Continue with the recipe.

Place all ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about three hours, uncovered. Stir occasionally towards the end of cooking time.

Savory Cream Soup

Serves 6

  • 2 Tbsp.butter
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated fine
  • 1 cup potatoes, peeled and diced small (or leftover mashed potatoes)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbsp. parsley, dried, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. savory, dried, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 can of evaporated milk (do not reconstitute)
  • 2 cans (19-23 oz. size) creamed corn
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

In stockpot, melt the butter. Clean and dice the onion fine; saute in the butter until tender. Add the carrot, potato, and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then add remaining ingredients. Cook at a simmer, uncovered for 40 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Lentil Soup with Ham

Makes 8 cups

  • 2 cups dry lentils
  • 10 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 pound leftover ham, optional
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. thyme, dried, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. parsley, dried, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. savory, dried, crushed

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Wash and rinse the dry lentils and put in stock pot. Cover with the vegetable stock. Add the ham and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 3 hours. Remove the ham bone and clean off any remaining meat to add to the soup. Discard the bone.

Clean and peel the onion and carrots. Dice small and add to the soup along with the rest of the seasonings. Simmer one hour more.

By Lynn Greene

Wisconsin author Lynn Greene has written "Lynn's Place" for numerous publications over the years in Wisconsin. She now shares her insights and recipes here.