Will you bake a ham for your Easter dinner? Don’t throw out the bone or the fat scraps! One of the best ham “leftovers” is the stock you’ll make with the bone and scraps.
After the big dinner, delicious sandwiches and maybe some eggs benedict for breakfast, you’re down to the scraps on the ham bone. I cut away any that might season a future casserole of scalloped potatoes and/or turnips and pack them into a zipper freezer bag to stash away in the freezer. Those tasty big bones go into the crock pot and simmer for hours.
Put the following into a crock pot:
• ham bones, plus all the little scraps of fat you cut off slices
• 1 medium onion stuck with a couple cloves
• a few stalks of celery, limp is fine
• a few whole peppercorns
• water to cover the bones
1. Put the bones and vegetables into the crock pot with water to cover, turn it to high and let it simmer all day or overnight. If it’s boiling too hard, turn the heat down some. As the stock cooks, the bones will separate at the joint — be sure to push them down and keep them covered.
2. When many hours have passed, taste just a spoonful of stock — if it’s flavorful, your stock is ready. Let the stock cool just a bit. Drain the stock through a colander into a big bowl or pot, pressing down a little on the vegetables and little meat scraps. Discard the bones and scraps.
3. Stir the stock to distribute the fat, then pour the stock into wide-mouth canning jars. You must use the wide-mouth jars; regular-mouth jars can crack in the freezer. You could also use plastic containers, but the glass protects the flavor better. You’ll see the fat slowly come to the top. The fat protects the stock from freezer burn or icing.
4. Let the jars cool to room temperature and then freeze. Just to be very safe, I leave the lids off until the stock freezes, then put the lids on. The bones from a large shank half will make about 2 quarts of stock.
Ham-Vegetable Soup Recipe
Makes about 2 quarts of soup
• A little extra-virgin olive oil for the pot
• 1 medium onion, diced small
• 3–4 stalks of celery, sliced thin
• freshly ground black pepper to taste, about 20 grinds
• 1 quart homemade ham stock
• 1 can cannellini beans, organic if possible*
• 4 cups of assorted solid vegetables in small bite-sized cuts: a mix of carrots, green beans, corn, sweet potato or whatever veggies your family likes best
• Optional garnish: a light grating of parmesan or Romano cheese
1. In your soup pot, pour a little extra-virgin olive oil to generously cover the bottom of the pot. Add in your cut onion and celery, cover, and cook gently over low heat until the vegetables are tender.
2. Season now with generous grinds of the pepper mill, but hold off the salt until the soup is ready to serve. Ham can be quite salty and you may not want to add more.
3. Now add the quart of stock, and stir well. Add the cannellini beans and then the cut-up vegetables. Slowly bring to a simmer over low heat and let cook until all the veggies are tender, but don’t cook them into mush.
4. I like to serve this soup with mini baguettes.
* Cannellini beans are white kidney beans. Remember MOTHER’s recent caution about slow-cooked beans. The organic canned beans are fully cooked. However, if you have fresh, frozen, or dry cannellinis, they must be fully cooked, completely tender. So, you must cook these in a separate pot and drain them before adding to your soup.
Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.