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Even better than better:
I've had some exchanges with a true authority on this soup, Dawid Olson, who says this about ärtsoppe: "A little tip from my own kitchen... Half way through the cooking, if you take a cup or two of the whole mixture--minus the ham hock--and run it through the blender, it yields a thicker soup. Partly for the blended mixture, but also for the released starches in the peas. The mustard, of course, makes all the difference, and white pepper compliments it very well. I personally like to use worchester sauce rather then salt. It's a wonderful soup, a great Swedish tradition."


(Swedish pea soup)

Traditional in Sweden since before the Vikings, ärtsoppa was made from fast-growing peas that accommodated the short growing season. Ärtsoppa was especially popular among the many poor who cooked all their food in their one and only pot, meat and vegetables together, over an open wood fire. When Sweden was converted to Catholicism, pea soup became the traditional meal for Thursday dinner--thick and hearty, especially "och flask" (with pork) to tide hardworking farmers over the fast on Fridays. Although Sweden was converted to Lutheranism around 1530, pea soup continued to be eaten as a standard for Thursday dinners even to today, traditionally with brown mustard and crisp or hardcrusted bread. Over time, other traditions grew up around it. When Sweden began importing arrack from Indonesia and Java in the 18th century, punsch, an arrack-based, sweet yellow liqueur, became the pea soup drink of choice. Then thin Swedish pancakes, topped with preserves or fresh berries. This ärtsoppa recipe serves 4-6 people.

Garnish: grainy brown mustard

1. Soak the peas in water at least 12 hours.
2. Drain the peas, put them in a big pot, cover with the water, chopped onions, and the onion with cloves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a medium simmer, add the piece of salt pork, cover, and let simmer for about 90 minutes. If pea skins surface, skim them off.
3. Rub the marjoram and thyme between the palms of your hands into the pot, stir, and let simmer another 15 minutes. Season to taste, though the salt pork should have seasoned the broth enough.
4. Remove the meat, let cool, then cut into pieces. Remove the clove-stuck onion and discard.
5. When ready to serve, divide the pork among rimmed bowls, then ladle the soup over it. Pass a bowl of grainy brown mustard for your guests to spoon onto the rim of their soupbowls. They can choose to stir the mustard directly into the soup...or, with each bite, to dip the tip of their spoon into the mustard before filling the rest of it with soup.