Salted Pig Tails and Split Pea Soup – Caribbean and Belize

I love the flavors of the Caribbean. A few days ago we ate at a Caribbean restaurant here in Belize and I ordered Salted Pig Tails and Split Pea Soup. I had heard about it from our landlord, so I was quite anxious to give it a try. As expected, it was absolutely wonderful. Today while Greg was out, he stopped by a local meat shop and got me a couple pounds of salted pig tails. We will be enjoying my version of Salted Pig Tails and Split Pea Soup in about another hour and a half.

salted pig tails and split pea soup

Your finished soup will be thick and creamy and delicious! Image credit: Cherri Megasko

Why Salted Pig Tails?

In the Caribbean they use salt to cure pig (or pork) tails. The alternative would be “fresh” pig tails and the difference would be similar to the difference between pork belly and bacon. (Pork belly is fresh and bacon is cured.) This is often the case with pork cuts – some are available in both fresh and cured versions. Ham hocks is another example.

How Does the Salt Affect the Pig Tails and Split Pea Soup?

The Salted Pig Tails and Split Pea Soup that I sampled last week was incredibly salty. Too salty for me, in fact. When I started looking at recipes, though, they all said to par boil the pig tails for a specified length of time to remove a lot of the salt. They also recommended not adding salt to the soup because the pig tails would contain enough for the entire dish. I don’t like leaving the salt content of a dish up to chance like that, however, so I increased the length of time of the par boiling step to remove more of the salt. I then added what I needed back in to the dish at the end. The recipe below will reflect that change.

salted pig tails and split pea soup

If you’re not used to cooking with unconventional meat cuts, these pig tails may look a little daunting. But they are really quite delicious, tasting a little like ham. Image credit: Cherri Megasko

Are There Other Ways to Prepare This Soup?

Absolutely! Some of the differences are:

  • Some recipes I reviewed called for no vegetables, some added potatoes, and some added carrots. You can also use sweet potatoes, yams, green plantain … anything that follows in that flavor and texture category.
  • One of the recipes I reviewed used coconut milk rather than water. That looked really tasty, but it just about doubles the cost of the soup ingredients so I opted to just use water.
  • Indian cuisine has had a big influence in Caribbean recipes, and I saw one that included cumin and turmeric.
  • Some recipes call for hot chilies (habaneros) and some do not.
  • All the recipes I saw used yellow split peas, but I don’t know why you couldn’t use green instead.
salted pig tails and split pea soup

Now that the pig tails have been cut up and other ingredients have been added, it’s beginning to look a lot more appetizing. Image credit: Cherri Megasko

Cher’s Salted Pig Tails and Split Pea Soup Recipe

Ingredients:

2 lbs. salted pig tails (cut into 1 – 1/2” sections)

2 Tbl. lard (or vegetable oil)

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

8 cups cold water

2 Tbl. oregano

2 Tbl. jerk spices

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1 lb. yellow split peas, washed, sorted and drained

1 large potato peeled and cut into large pieces

2 carrots, peeled and sliced into large pieces

1 stalk celery, chopped

salted pig tails and split pea soup

Be sure to chunk up your potatoes and carrots larger than you normally would for soup. These will cook for an hour and break up a bit. Image credit: Cherri Megasko

Par Boiling Instructions:

  1. Rinse the pig tails well under cold running water.
  2. Place in a heavy saucepan and cover with cold water.
  3. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
  4. As the water begins to boil, foam will start accumulating on the top. Spoon that off and discard. (This will continue for five to ten minutes, so you’ll need to tend it for that time.)
  5. Once all foam has been removed, reduce heat to simmer and cover.
  6. Continue simmering for a total of 45 minutes.
  7. Drain the pig tails and rinse again with lots of cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. Note: If you were not able to get your pig tails cut up small enough at the store (or butcher shop), they should be tender enough at this point that you can cut them using a strong pair of kitchen shears or meat clever.
salted pig tails and split pea soup

Although all the recipes I reviewed for salted pig tails and split pea soup called for yellow split peas, I think this dish would work well using green split peas as well. Image credit: Cherri Megasko

Soup Instructions:

  1. Heat lard over medium high heat in large heavy soup pot.
  2. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent.
  3. Add the pig tails and stir as needed to brown them slightly.
  4. Turn heat to high and add next five ingredients (water, oregano, jerk spices, pepper and split peas). Bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Increase heat to high and add the final three ingredients (potatoes, carrots and celery). Return to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally to keep ingredients from sticking. Note: Yes, an hour is a long time to cook potatoes and carrots. But for this recipe you want them overly done so they start to fall apart a bit. This adds to the richness of the soup.
  8. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, stir vigorously a few times to break up the peas. The soup is done when almost all the peas have disintegrated and you have a very thick and creamy consistency.
  9. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. (You may not need salt.)