Snert: real Dutch pea soup

Dutch version of this recipe
Snert at the start of the cooking process
Snert after two hours: although tha pan can be taken off the fire, the soup is still not thick enough
The next day, the snert has thickened enough that a spoon stays standing

Dutch cuisine has few internationally known highlights. Gouda cheese is one them, maatjesharing (young herring eaten slightly salted but essentially raw) is another. Snert or pea soup is also an icon of Dutch cuisine. As with all traditional recipes Dutch pea soup is made in many different ways. It is an ideal soup to make in large quantities for big gatherings, or to put in a freezer in portions for one or two persons.
Real Dutch pea soup is made with pork. However, on this site you can also find two recipes for meatless pea soup, and a speciqal stock for Lent, also made from peas.
Snert must be very thick: a spoon should be able to remain upright in the middle of the pan. To reach the preferred thickness you must prepare the soup one day in advance and reheat it very carefully before serving. The microwave oven is ideal for reheating one or two portions, but if you want to reheat a whole pan of soup you can either place it in a moderate heated oven and stir occasionally (no plastic handles on the pan or cover!), or on the stove on very slow fire, again stirring occasionally. If the heat is too strong you will get a thick black cake on the bottom of the pan.

'Gelderse worst' (Dutch sausage)Sausage
The sausage which is traditionally added to the soup is "Gelderse rookworst": smoked pork sausage from which the ends are tied together, originally from the province Gelderland in the Netherlands. You can use other smoked pork sausage instead, or Frankfurters.

A warning. Someone once mailed be, very dissappointed and even angry, that his peasoup had turned sour, and he had followed my recipe to the letter!
Of course I felt for him, and I hope that next time he will get a wonderful soup. But it is a fact that peasoup can go off. I speak of my own experience: years ago I lived temporarily in an extremely humid house, and the peasoup I had made for a party had turned sour. All I could do was flush the lot through the toilet. There are circumstances that will cause food to go off no matter what you do. Stock (and peasoup) turns sour, bread dough will rise like a bubbling vulcan, and mayonnaise will curdle. There is nothing you can do, the decay literally hangs in the air. For example, when thunder threatens (that seems to have to do with ozone), or when the kitchen is damp and microscopic organisms float about (if you want to make sourdough some of these organisms are what you want). My complainer suggested that I should mention that the peasoup must be cooled quickly and then kept in the refrigerator. Under normal circomstances this is not necessary, and I never do that. But for those of you who can store a ten-litre pan in their refrigerator and doubt their kitchen-climate, this may be a good tip. So there.

The recipe
Printout version

Ingredients for about 3 litres (6 to 12 persons)
500 gram (2 1/2 cup) split peas
1 piece of gammon with bone, or pork hock, about 500 gram (1 pound), or spareribs, or two pig's trotters
100 gram (3 ounces) streaky bacon or Dutch "sauerkraut bacon": streaky pork, salted but not smoked, preferrably with rind
1 smoked sausage
2 large onions, chopped not too small
1 large carrot
2 leeks
1 celeriac
2 potatoes
1 bunch celery
pepper and salt to taste
2 litre (8 cups/4pints) water to start with
bread or rye bread (pumpernickel), with -if you can get it- slices of "katenspek" (lightly streaked pork, first boiled and then smoked black)

Rinse the split peas in a sieve under the running tap. Split peas don't need soaking in water. Bring water to the boil with the peas, gammon and bacon. Let it boil and skim off the floating scum. Pour all water off, rinse peas (and meat) again and put them back on the fire with clean water.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegatbles:
Cut the skin of the celeriac, peel the potatoes, and dice celeriac and potatoes. Peel the carrot and dice it. Cut the leeks and wash them. Add the vegetables to the pan and let simmer until the peas are done (one and a half to two hours, the split peas must be broken).
Take the meat out of the pan, remove rind and bones, and cut in small pieces. Return the meat to the pan. Wash the sprigs of celery, and chop or cut the leaves. Twenty minutes before the end of cooking, add the whole smoked sausage and the celery. Taste, finish off with pepper and salt.
The pea soup is still fairly liquid. Let it cool completely and reheat it the next day, or freeze in portions. When you want to freeze the soup, add the smoked sausage when reheating, or divide the sausage in equal quantities over the portions.

Rehating the soup
Take care when you reheat the soup to do this very gently and stirring frequently, to prevent a thick black crust forming on the bottom of the pan. To heat smaller amounts, use the microwave. Another way to heat a large amount of snert is placing the whole pan (with ovenproof handles!) in the oven at 120dgC/250oF. But even then, stir the soup once in a while.

To serve
In large bowls, with bread. Older cookbooks (nineteeth century) prescribe toasted white bread, later cookbooks rye bread (pumpernickel), with katenspek (cooked and smoked bacon) or other cooked and smoked streaky bacon. And no one will punish you if you use French bread instead of rye bread.

Etalageschotel met ingrediënten voor snertThe illustration on the left is from a book on butchers and meat products from 1965, Moderne beenhouwerij en charcuterie in woord en beeld (Modern butchery and production of cold meats in words and images). It was meant to be used as an eye catcher in the display of the butcher's shop. This was nearly forty years ago, when butchers apparently still took the time to decorate their displays with other objects than plastic greens and fruit. The decorations of the ingredients are made of lard, split peas, onions cut in the shape of flowers, and slices of leeks. In the center you see a pig's trotter, below it six small sausages. On the left of the trotter is a piece of gammon, on the right some diced streaky bacon.

All descriptions of ingredients

The editions below are in my possession. Links refer to available editions.
All books mentioned on this site (with short reviews)

  • For those of you who want to know more about contemporary Dutch cooking, recently the cookbook Dutch Cooking The New Kitchen by Manon Sikkel and Michiel Klønhammer has appeared (ISBN 90 230 1127 9, ed. Gottmer/Becht, Haarlem, 2003).