Heat a 6-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and add the oil. When hot, add the ribs and cook until brown on both sides, 3 to 6 minutes. Remove the ribs to a plate and set aside.
Add the carrot, celery, onion, 1 tablespoon salt and cabbage if using and sweat the vegetables for about 3 minutes. Add the split peas, potatoes, garlic, bay leaf, smoked meat, cayenne pepper, ribs, 2 1/2 quarts water and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a simmer, skimming the foam that will rise to the surface as the water comes up to heat. When the liquid is at a simmer, lay the bacon slices on top of the stew, transfer to the oven and cook until the peas and ribs are tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
Discard the bay leaf. Remove the smoked meat from the soup. If using a ham hock, when it's cool enough to handle, pick off the meat and add it back to the soup (discard the bone). If using kielbasa, cut into slices and add it back to the soup. Chop up the bacon and add it to the soup.
To serve, divide the ribs among bowls and ladle the soup over them.
For more ingredient substitution ideas, see the article below.