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Swedish Pea Soup – Ärtsoppa


The main dish for our celebration of Tjugodag Knut is pea soup, or ärtsoppa. Traditional in Sweden since before the Vikings, ärtsoppa was made from fast-growing peas that accommodated the short growing season. There are many reasons presented as to why this soup is now a staple on Thursdays. One of the more believable ones is that when Sweden converted to Catholicism there needed to be a hearty meal to hold working people through the Friday fast. Whatever the reason, pea soup continues to be eaten as a standard for Thursday dinners even in the military. Over time, the thin Swedish pancakes were added to accompany the soup. Everyone seems to have their favorite version. Here is a pretty basic ärtsoppa recipe that serves 4-6 people.

  • 1 pound whole dried yellow peas
  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • 1/2 pound whole piece of salt pork
  • 1/4 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • Additional seasonings that can be added by each individual when served include salt, pepper, garlic, and seasoning salt. Garnish: grainy brown mustard.

Start the night before by soaking the peas completely covered with water for at least 12 hours.

Drain the peas and put them in a large cook pot. Cover the peas completely with water and add the chopped onions. (Some people will also add chopped carrots and other vegetables. You can add more water if desired as it cooks to bring it to consistency you desire. Some people like it thick while others prefer it to be more liquid.)

Bring the water to a boil and the turn down to a medium simmer. Add the pork and let simmer about 90 minutes. Skim off any pea hulls that might float to the top. Season the soup with the marjoram and thyme and simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove the meat and cut into pieces. Put the pieces back into the soup.

When the soup is served, individuals can add additional spices. The grainy brown mustard can be stirred directly into the soup or with each bite, dip the tip of your spoon into the mustard before filling the rest of it with soup.

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