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Aug 26, 2011 11:34 AM

Homemade ham soup advice?

Several weekends ago my friends barbequed a 110 lb. pig. I decided to scrape up the remains of the carcass (bones, skin, fat, bits of meat, the head and legs) and threw about a trashbag worth of ham bits into my deep freezer for future stock making.

I'd really love to make a huge batch of white bean and ham soup, and also hopefully render out the fat for various uses. I grew up Jewish and vegetarian, so I really have no idea how to cook ham, but I'm figuring I can just boil the defrosted remains for a while with onions and spices to make stock, then strain and add the bits of meat, veggies and soaked beans and boil again for soup.

Does that sound about right? Any advice? I figured I could get some help from you Chowhound pork experts!

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  1. You can make a wonderful broth or stock from the bits you've got. I've done that exact thing with a ham bones. I purposely buy big hams, cook what I need and leave a lot of meat on the bone for making a rich ham base. It's much more than stock or broth, the gelatinous mixture is very rich and flavorful. Cook it low and slow, use an onion and little bit of celery. Try not to boil the meat, just let it simmer. Be sure to lift scum the scum off the top. No need to use pepper or salt or anything other spice for that matter, This is more of a base for future soups, broth and stalk. Strain it well, and the best way to remove unwanted fat is to chill it, then lift off what you don't want in the remaining product.

    Cooking will create a rich broth, full of gelatin and my advise is to freeze it in small containers. I've only made that mistake once. This base is the perfect flavor boost for a pot of swiss chard or pick your favorite green, fresh green beans, or any bean for that matter. A favorite potato soup or entree recipe. Think of how bacon flavors, only with less smoke. People will want your recipe and then wonder why their dish is never as flavorful as yours.

    As to your beans.
    Rinse and pick over the beans, toss whatever doesn't belong in there. Now with clear water cover the beans and soak overnight in the fridge. Use the soaking water for your pot of beans. I wouldn't use the meat that created my base. I'd use other bits (sounds like you have a lot)
    Saute your vegetables. Small cut celery ( and a few tops) onions and either one or two serrano chiles, Then salt and pepper the veggies.
    Add your spices. For example: Herbes de Provence is my favorite. Garlic powder, a bit of thyme. Sometimes I add cumin depends on the beans and where your headed with the pot. I cover the bottom of the pot with the spices.
    Add the beans, then the liquid and flavorful base. Adjust the salt and pepper as it cooks.
    Carrots- last and if I were going to add potatoes (not in my beans-but who am I to judge?) I'd do those the last 45 mins.

    The thing to remember is to keep tasting your soup, and that's how you'll get the perfect soup.
    Variations, are do you like your bean soup brothy or creamy? This is where I wouldn't add the meat at first. Once the beans are cooked, mash the beans a bit until the texture is to you're liking, then add your meat. Otherwise you'll tear the meat up.
    I hope this helps, I have several recipes, when you say beans, there's abundance of choices.
    Pink, red, pinto, white, lima, black eyed peas, split peas, lentils, etc...

    I know your say "I grew up Jewish and vegetarian" but we all know that if you use this broth, you'll cross sacred territory. Just to address the elephant, so you know - I know.
    I sure hope my suggestions help you, and if I may say this, when I have a ham bone in the freezer, I always feel so fortunate! Consider yourself very lucky!

    1 Reply
    1. re: chef chicklet

      The only thing I might add to that is you might want to remove as much meat as you can after about an hour of gentle simmering and freeze it separately for later use, then let the bones and skin go for as long as you can -- maybe another four to six hours to extract all that lovely gelatin and flavor, then proceed as above.

      You should try to chill the stock as quickly as possible before putting it in the fridge. One way I like is to strain from your large stockpot into a smaller one if you have one, then place the small pot with the strained stock into your now-scrubbed and cooled larger stockpot filled with ice and a little water. When all the ice is melted and your stock is as cool as you can get it, then you can put it in the fridge.

      Next day, pull off the fat and save it in the fridge. Melt down your gelatinous stock, break it down into smaller containers and either freeze or can it.

    2. Awesome, thank you for the tips. I'm so excited to have ham stock and soup around. I will definitely take out the meat after an hour and let the rest simmer for a few hours... I'm was thinking this would make a good indoor thing to do during the hurricane but I guess if the power goes out I'm kind of screwed. So maybe the weekend after this one!

      Happily I have a pressure canner so I'll probably make seven quarts of soup to can, then give away some to friends and have a quart or two to eat during the week. I'll freeze anything that's left over.

      1 Reply
      1. tried to respond to acgold.

        I think I covered what you said, I do strip as much meat off, and that gets packaged, but i do leave some on, for flavor. Sounds like the op has a lot of meat and this shouldn't be a problem.
        The ice cooling is not something I've tried, so far the way I've been doing it has worked beautifully. Sorry but that ice step looks like an necessary step to me. I chill the whole pot in the fridge, then scoop off the unwanted fat, then package it up. And yes I also ladle into a smaller pot to strain, I forgot about that. thanks!

        1 Reply
        1. re: chef chicklet

          >>>"that ice step looks like an necessary step to me"<<<

          I assume you meant UNnecessary...;-)

          The only problem with putting a near-boiling hot pot of stock into a fridge to cool is it may spend too much time in the danger zone between 40 and 140F, breeding bacteria and warming up your whole fridge in the process and possibly endangering all the other food in it. If they caught you doing this in a restaurant they'd shut you down.

          This has actually been covered more than a few times on those restaurant makeover-type shows and the like. It's a pretty big issue, especially with large batches. Remember that a warm, body temperature, protein rich stock is basically the exact same growth medium they put in petri dishes to make bacteria grow.

          Not to say I haven't done this myself at home but I just feel better getting it down to as cool as I can as quickly as I can, then into the fridge. I'm very much anti-unnecessary work but I really think this is an important step.

          By the way, using this quick-chill method forms a virtually impenetrable layer of fat on the top which effectively seals out any nasty bugs before it reaches a hospitable temp for them, meaning you can keep it in the fridge in this form as long as the fat cap stays undisturbed, literally for weeks and it will stay fresh.

          About the meat, I agree with you completely. I was only suggesting to remove it after an hour of simmering because at that point, it will have given up most of its flavor to the stock but will not have fallen apart completely and will still be easy to recover from the stock for another use.