This soup has a "creamy" texture and is very, very tasty. I started making this when my son was very young. He loved peas and ham, but did not like carrots, onions or potatoes. The carrots, onions and potatoes become very tiny in the process of making this soup so I was able to get him to "eat his other veggies" without knowing it. My family and friends just love this soup and I hope you will as well.
THE DAY BEFORE: Add peas to a large container and cover with water by 2 inches, and soak overnight.
In a large pot, add 12 cups of water and ham bone; bring to a boil. Cover pot, change heat to low and cook ham bone for 1 hour. Remove ham bone from pot and allow ham bone to cool. Use the "broth" from the ham bone for the soup. (Sieve this broth through a strainer to remove any pieces of fat or bone.) Remove meat from cooled ham bone and save for soup.
Drain and rinse the peas.
In a very, very large pot (the kind you would use for cooking lobster), melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and garlic (minced or powdered). Cook stirring for 2 minutes.
Add the onion powder, black pepper, red pepper flakes, ground cloves and parsley flakes. Cook stirring for 2 minutes.
Add the broth, peas, potatoes, carrots and bay leaves, and bring to a boil; then cover pot and lower heat to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally until the peas are very tender and mushy -- about 3 hours (add more water as needed if the soup becomes too thick or dry).
Add ALL ham meat and continue cooking until ham meat is hot. The soup is now ready to eat.
This soup freezes very well. I usually wait until the soup is cooled and then fill quart-size Ziploc bags (making sure the air is removed and the bags are completely sealed). Each bag is enough soup to feed two people. If you need to feed more, use two bags (or more).
I usually serve this soup with a loaf of warmed French bread and butter.