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Ham bone + bean soup = help needed...

It's been a while since I've remembered to keep the bone from a ham. I finally remembered with our Christmas ham, and I'm making a pot of bean soup this week, but now I'm having a "duh" moment and I can't remember how to use it. Help, please! Do I just chuck it in the pot when I cook the beans? It seems pretty fatty (even with most of the ham sliced off) - is there a way to remove the fat before cooking it with the beans? BTW, my plan is to use a mixture of dried beans (soaked, of course), and cook with an onion pr two and perhaps some garlic, and then add some of the leftover chopped ham after cooking. Thanks in advance!

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  1. If you make a stock from the bone, you can remove the fat from the chilled stock.

    1. As Paul J suggested, make stock from the bone first. If there are some decent size pieces of ham I haven't been able to cut off easily before putting it in the pot, I'll get them off in the first 20 minutes or so (usually easier after it warms up). Those I'll keep for later use in soup. Otherwise, the bits I don't get off are food for the stock. I usually cook the bone (stove top or slow cooker) for quite a few hours with some onion and bay leaf.

      I do the ham stock at least a day before I want to make the soup. That way, after a night in the fridge, there's a thick layer of fat that is easy to remove. If you want the soup the next day, you can also soak the beans overnight while the stock chills.

      Then for the soup, with a flavorful ham stock, I keep it simple --some fresh chopped onions, maybe garlic, and a couple fresh bay leaves -- and just simmer the soaked beans until they are tender. If you use a mix of beans, just remember that they will soak and cook at different times. So check a couple types for doneness.

      1. IMO the flavor of the soup is better if you cook it the day before it's eaten. So just chuck in the ham bone, make the soup, then refrigerate the whole mess. The next day, remove the fat cap that has solidified on top and re-heat the soup. You can easily remove the (now bare) bone once the soup has warmed up.

        2 Replies
        1. I just made a pot using a recipe from allcooks.com. Incredibly easy and GOOD. Toss in your ham bone, a can of diced tomatos, a can of red beans drained, chopped onion, chopped green pepper (I didn'thave so I chopped celery) & 4 cups of chicken broth. No spices, nothing else - honestly! They put it in a crock pot for 6-7 hours, took out bone& fat, put back as much of the meat as you want. I put it on the stove, because I was in a hurry, simmered about 3 hours. I'm a soup snob & it was great.

          1. The soup will have a lot more flavor if you make a broth from the ham bone and aromatics first, before adding the beans. If you cook the beans with the ham bone together, you won't get maximum flavor from the ham bone before the beans are cooked. And as other posters have pointed out, you can remove the fat from the broth if you make it a day before you finish the soup.

            4 Replies
            1. re: janniecooks

              jannie, i respect your opinion, but i just don't agree. have you done it both ways to tell the tale?

              1. re: alkapal

                No reason why both ways won't work. I do prefer to do the stock separately though because there's gristle and such that comes off the bone that I just don't like finding in my soup. Biting down on a bit of cartilage gives me the ooglies. I just would rather simmer the bejesus out of the bone, skim off what comes to the top, strain and refrigerate overnight and remove the fat the next day.

                1. re: morwen

                  That's my thought too -- I like to get every last bit of flavor out of the bones and "bits" (whether it's ham stock or chicken/turkey), but I don't like surprise bits of bone, gristle, etc. in the finished soup. So I always like to do the stock first so I can do at least a rough strain (even through a regular colander). Then start with fresh aromatics and other ingredients for the actual soup.

                  My MIL makes all of her soups "right in" and there's always too much fat (and I'm not afraid of fat for flavor) and bits that are unpleasant to eat.

                  So my own preference is for stock made ahead, then soup.

                2. re: alkapal

                  Yes, I've done it both ways. And my opinion is that without making a broth ahead of time the soup lacks flavor and depth - it results in a rather insipid broth because the beans cook in about an hour, way too little time to extract much flavor from the ham bone. So now I make a ham broth first, simmering for a couple hours, before adding the beans. I don't do it to remove the fat ahead of time, I don't fear fat, but for those who do, making it a day ahead allows the fat to rise and be skimmed off when cold.

              2. Unless you are watching fat intake, I think beans and fat go together. The soup will not taste oily because the beans will absorb the fat. If you are starting with dried beans (soak or not is your preference)I just put in the bone with beans and water. Add some lightly sauteed onions and garlic and cook. If I am making split peas, the peas will be broken up and thicken the soup. If I use other beans, I like to puree or mash some of it when the beans are soft to thicken it. I think making a ham stock is an unnecessary step because bean soups take so long to cook that there is plenty of time for the ham bone to flavor the cooking liquid. Only make a ham stock if you are using canned beans.

                1. Thanks all! I think in the past, I've just cooked the ham bone with the beans, and I've been pretty happy with how "hammy" the soup tasted. Glad to see this is an accepted method. I'm feeling too lazy right now to try making stock first...

                  1. I made a quick bean soup at noon using a can of beans (white kidney) and bones from a ham hock. The hock had been cooked with sauerkraut a long time, so most of the meat had already fallen off the bones.

                    I sauteed chopped onion and bacon, added the bones, liquid from the beans, and water, and cooked it in the pressure cooker for 10 min. Then added the beans, some sausage, adjusted the S&P, and cooked it under pressure for another 10 min.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: paulj

                      paul, you are smart to repurpose that hock bone! great idea.

                    2. I always make the stock first, but only because that's how I was trained. I've seen chefs who I respect a great deal just simmer the whole shebang together....so I think it's a matter of taste/opinion.

                      1. Beans absorb fat (think refried beans), So there might not be as much fat to skim (if any) from the beans cooked with the fat and bones (compared to stock made first).