Question on smoked ham hocks
I love using a meaty ham bone to flavor soups, but since I rarely make ham (and rarely receive one as a gift), I thought a good alternative would be store-bought smoked ham hocks. I must admit that I don't know anything about smoked ham hocks, but I thought they would be a good substitute. But, when I used one in soup (just dropped it in to simmer like I do the ham bone), I really didn't notice that it contributed any flavor.
Am I doing something wrong? Or were my hopes too high for the smoked ham hocks?
Thanks for any advice or insight!
I don't think your hopes were too high, although the flavor is distinct from a baked ham bone. Ham hocks are great in bean soups or with collards or other greens.
Honestly, it's impossible to say what went wrong without knowing (1) what kind of soup you're making, (2) how much liquid you're using, or (3) how much your ham hocks weighed (they can vary in size quite a bit). And of course, quality varies: I'm lucky enough that my corner market carries meaty, locally-made hocks with only a very subtle smokiness. I've found some of the mass-produced ones disgusting.
Anyhow, what I can say is that I'm usually just cooking for me and the gf, and one hock is perfect for about two cups of dried cannellini (which generally take 6 to 8 cups of stock). I often fish out the hock about 30 minutes before the soup is done and (once it's cool enough to handle) separate the nice meat from the gristle and skin and bone and stir the good stuff back back into the soup with some sherry and fresh herb.
We like to eat pork hocks, ham hocks and smoked pig's feet.
I drop 'em in a pot of boiling water for just a minute, then proceed with any soup/beans recipe. I haven't actually made a broth, as recommended by janniecooks, and want to try that. It seems like a better way to extract flavor than to add the hocks directly to the beans, the way I normally do.
All of these items are more subtly flavored than a typical ham bone. They contain lots of collagen for richness, too.
Like you I never make ham at home, but every new year's I make black-eyed peas using smoked ham hocks. One hock is not enough to flavor the soup. I usually use at least four ham hocks, this year I'm using six nice meaty ones, and I make a broth from the ham hocks first. I simmer them in water with aromatic vegetables for a couple of hours to wring all the flavor out them. Remove the ham hocks and add peas or beans along with fresh jalapenos or green chiles, more onion and garlic, and herbs. While the beans are coming to a simmer I remove the meat from hocks and dice it before adding it back to the soup.
You'll get plenty of flavor as long as you use several ham hocks, at least four for a couple quarts of soup, and make a broth first.