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Place bay leaf, cloves and thyme sprig on a square of 100%-cotton cheesecloth. Bring up the corners and tie closed with clean string; set aside.
In a large saucepan or 4-quart Dutch oven, melt butter (or margarine) over medium heat. Add celery, onion and garlic; cook and stir about 5 minutes or until tender. Add cheesecloth bag, broth, pork hocks, split peas, carrot and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 45 to 55 minutes or until split peas are tender, stirring occasionally.
Remove and discard cheesecloth bag. Remove pork hocks to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones. Discard bones. Chop meat. Return meat to the pot. Stir in milk and a few dashes of hot sauce to taste; heat through. If desired, sprinkle each serving with Parmesan.