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Ham Stock

Hi all!
This is my first post, tho I've been following Chowhound for a while. You folks are a wealth of knowledge, and I'm hoping you can help me with a question.

Last weekend I made ham stock, no veggies or seasonings, just boiled ham juice. It's beautiful and flavorful and froze with no issues. I have 22 cups of this lovely liquid, and planned on making my grandmother's pea soup and bean soup over the next few months. Problem is that I'm working from memory and can't recall how she actually used the liquid in the soups!

I *think* the stock was used in place of the water to form the base of the soup, after the peas or beans were soaked in plain water. Heat stock, add hydrated beans, add sweated carrots and onion, season. After watching countless videos and reading countless recipes online, I'm stumped tho. Almost every one calls for boiling the ham (hock) and adding it to the soup but leaving the ham water out. Do you suppose this is because most people don't have ham stock on hand?

Has anyone ever heard of using ham stock as the actual liquid in bean or pea soup, or have I lost my mind? It's been some 20 years since I've made either of these soups, so my memory may be off. Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. My grandmothers favorite use of a "nice ham bone" was to make either Navy bean or split pea soup. I called both DUMP recipes, for lack of a better word!?!

    Bone went iin big pot, along with diced up carrots, onions, and celery... and a bay leaf. Then in went a bag of dried beans (don't remember her EVER soaking them?) or dried split peas. Filled pot to top with water, brought to boil and then down to LOW. Stirred occasionally... till "done"... went beans were soft or peas were pretty much smooth. If soup was reducing quicker than beans/peas were cooking, she'd just add a little more water.

    Don't know, but think there's a chance that soup might end up a little salty if you start with stock... depending on how salty ham was to begin with. Definitely wouldn't add salt till it was about done and tasted.

    1. I use ham stock from braising a smoked ham or smoked shoulder. My mother baked ham so she did not have stock. My stock is very strong so I only use about two or three cups for a pound of beans. It becomes too salty if I use all ham stock. For the rest of the liquid I use water or unsalted chicken stock, but it should be flavorful. I also save some of the braised ham and add it at the end. I do not like ham after it has cooked a long time in water (to me it becomes tasteless unless it is country ham).

      I don't soak spit peas. Other beans I soak or not depending on my prep. A "quick soak" (boil a min or two and leave for an hour) works well for me, too. (I used to make 15 bean soup with just the package from the store and it was very good. A friend's older southern relatives thought I could "really" cook when they ate my bean soups. Used the recipe on the package with the addition of my ham stock and ham.)

      Just as you say sweat some onion, carrots, garlic, and celery. I add some of these at the start with enough ham stock so the bean cooking liquid is good tasting but only mildly salty. (Add maybe a bay leaf(remove before blending) and some thyme as well) and then after the beans are cooked I usually blend at least some of the beans fairly smooth (with split peas I blend them all or just cook until they are smooth with just a stir). Then I add the rest of the cooked vegetables and cubed pieces of ham and cook these with the beans about 10 to 20 minute. Split peas are easy you just cook until they are completely soft. Other beans I usually do not cook to mush, but cook till tender but not disintegrating and I only blend some and keep some whole.

      Bean soups especially I think split pean thicken a lot by the next day. I just add a little water (or stock if needed) to heat up.

      1. Use it as you wish. I have and do. ~~ Taste before adding salt to whatever you cooking. ~~ Enjoy!

        1. I make ham stock as the first step in making a copycat version of Campbell's Bean & Bacon soup, and use it instead of water to cook the beans, takes the soup to a whole different level.

          1. I've never preboiled ham hocks. I just add them to the pot along with the rest of the ingredients, and I generally use homemade chicken stock for the liquid. Did you just make a pot of boiled ham hocks by itself and that is your "ham stock"? When I make bean soups I just put the ham bone in the pot along with the veggies and other ingredients and cook them together.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rasputina

              The stock is from the Christmas ham. Bone, meat, pan drippings, the whole shebang.

            2. Excellent! Thank you everyone. :D

              1. I grew up in a very ham-cooking family and have never hard of cooking the ham bone separately from the dried beans or peas. Why do it in two steps? Just put the bone in the pot with everything else. And when the pot of navy or lima beans or black-eyed peas or the split pea soup is done, fish out the bone and your dog will thank you.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Querencia

                  It's like making chicken or turkey stock; it's made then frozen in batches for later use. My grandmother used the stock to flavor everything from cornbread to collards, made gravies and dips. The ham stock is an ingredient that just hangs out in the freezer till needed. :D

                  1. re: tippau

                    Most people do not make a separate ham stock, preferring the easier route of just putting a meaty bone into water, adding (unsoaked) split peas, bay leaf, and raw chopped onion, carrot, and celery. But if I had a really big bone and a lot of meat I would make a stock the way you did, without sweating the vegetables first.

                    Unless you made your stock quite concentrated, you can just use it as the soup liquid. You may need to add some water when the soup is finished, since the broth will concentrate as the peas and vegetables cook. Don't season till it's done.

                    FYI, the Superior Touch Better than Bouillon line of jarred bases for soups and stews includes a Ham one, though not all supermarkets carry it. It is available online from www,superiortouch.com.

                2. Unlike other posters, my black bean soup recipe does call for the ham bone to be boiled separately, with the (pre-soaked) beans. Then, chicken stock and other flavorants (carrots, celery etc) are added to the beans/ham stock to make the final soup.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: pdxgastro

                    If you're pre-soaking your beans, the beans will be done before the ham hock...thus you boil the ham hock ahead of time. Stock on the fly, so to speak.

                    Don't forget that you don't pre-soak split peas. You want some of them to break down to make a creamy soup, but if you pre-soak them, you'll just end up with a pot of pureed peas.

                    I made lentil soup just last night - I put the ham hock into the pressure cooker for 35 minutes with the onion and carrot and herbs...the hock was still too tough to eat.

                    Added the lentils and sausage and cooked for another 15 minutes -- everything was done and tender at the same time. (and delicious -- the males in the household had two bowls each)

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      It was a ham bone + meat from the Xmas ham. So the bone was there just to flavor the cooking liquid for the beans. The beans were fine, not overdone.

                  2. You started with smoked hocks, right, Tip?

                    If the hock has been smoked then it has been salted. I put it in water, let it sit for a bit, bring it to the boil and then remove the hock. Better yet, I let it soak in water for a couple of hours and then remove. All i'm doing is extracting the salt while keeping the smoke.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: DockPotato

                      the issue with that I struggle with is that different brands have different levels of salt -- I dutifully soaked and rinsed not too long ago...and we all had to add salt (which is rare in this house) because it was far too bland!

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        The absence of salt in the joint is no issue. As a soup or stew progresses add salt to taste.

                        Indeed, is adding salt per individual taste not a good notion?

                        1. re: DockPotato

                          the point being that the salt levels present in the hock vary widely -- I've rinsed and still had a dish that tasted like a salt lick, and I've NOT rinsed and still needed salt.

                        2. re: sunshine842

                          As the OP already stated upthread, s/he made the stock from the holiday ham leftovers, NOT a smoked hock.

                        3. re: DockPotato

                          No hocks. Started with the leftover holiday ham, bone and drippings. Made the stock, packaged it up and froze it. So for soup I'm starting with ham stock-just ham, no veggies or seasonings went into the pot to make the stock. So I guess it's actually ham juice. :D

                          While trying to refresh my memory on making my grandmother's soup, I kept coming across recipes which started with hocks or a bone rather than ham stock. That's great if the ham is being used specifically for the soup, but that's not my starting point. Seeing so many recipes which start with the ham hocks or bone in the soup made me wonder if I was remembering my grandmother's technique incorrectly.

                          But thanks to the folks here, it's clear that I'm not. It's just much more common to start with the meat/bone than to make ham stock, freeze it, and use it in soups at later dates.

                        4. I have done the same thing--made stock from the hambone and drippings and then used the stock as the cooking liquid for beans, or for a pot of cabbage/potato/carrot/ham chunks. I use it in place of water--taste for salt before you dump it in, but beans need lots of salt, so it probably won't be too salty.

                          I don't freeze mine, I can it, but same difference. I love having jars of home canned stock on hand--so much better than any commercial stuff.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: sparrowgrass

                            Yes, it sure is handy. And no franken-ingredients. The Thanksgiving turkey provided five quarts of stock; no added seasonings or veggies there either. Homemade stock tastes sooooo gooooood!

                            1. re: sparrowgrass

                              Do you use the immersion method to can the stock or just hot pack?

                              1. re: gardengorilla

                                You must, must, must pressure-can stock.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  Canning meat stocks requires pressure cooking to prevent the deadly botulism. The minimum heat input to kill the spores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum is 3 min at 250F.

                                  I either freeze meat stocks or can them with 15 min of pressure cooking. My book 'Cooking and Experimenting with Pressure Cookers' discusses all the pitfalls and variables of canning meat stocks. That said, I love canning meat stocks.

                                  I like to cook soaked dried beans in various homemade meat stocks. Beans taste much better than cooked in just water/salt.

                            2. Hi, tippau:

                              I see the first "pulse" of responses was from Xmas '12/NY '13, and now it's Easter '13 leftover time. I got a phenomenal deal on a huge whole ham this year--about 25 lbs. Only cooked for 7 this year so had tons of meat to send home with guests. And STILL had about 8 lbs to bone out and freeze.

                              What I did was disjoint, smash and roast the bones and about 2 lbs of the trimmings in yesterday's pan with its fond. Then I added my aromatics and roasted it all together another hour. Then the whole mess went in a stocker, the roaster was deglazed, and water added to cover. 4 hours at a low simmer, skimmed, chinoised, icebath, defatted. Ended up with maybe 3/4 gallon of fabulous clear brown stock, not too salty.

                              Every time I've bought those disgusting "ham hocks" at the grocery, the salt, fake smoke and nasty bone dust has been overpowering. Likewise with the use of "Better than Bouillion" ham base, even the "Low Salt". Making your own can be a PITA, but at $1.85/lb for good smoked ham, it's been worth it.


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                Making the ham stock was totally worth it! You're so right about the hamhocks and theham base from the grocery stores. They can't hold a candle to the real ham stock. It tastes amazing and it freezes so well. The remains of the Easter ham are in the freezer now; It's going into the pot with a bunch of left over veggies this weekend. :D

                              2. You are so far ahead of everyone else! Use the ham stock as the bean cooking liquid as you originally wanted. The stock will give a delicious, meaty flavor to the beans. And it is filled with many of the meat's proteins. Who knows why others don't use this precious liquid?

                                In my book (page 147), I prepared ham stock in a pressure cooker, removed the fat with a "gravy strainer", and then canned the stock with a few bits of the meat. It was fabulous as a bean cooking liquid.

                                I am envious that you have 22 bags of frozen ham stock! Good for you.

                                Diana Walstad, Author
                                'Cooking and Experimenting with Pressure Cookers'

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: DLWalstad

                                  Down to two bags of stock after making soups for three months. It was great in bean soup, pea soup, and added a great depth to potato soup as well. A bit went into some veggie noodle soup, and a bit went to make a glaze for meatloaf a few weeks back.

                                  As I mentioned to Kaleo, the Easter ham is going into the pot this weekend so I'll have more stock. It's amazing how good it tastes. Just a few spoonfuls in the batter adds a bacony flavor to my skillet cornbread without using bacon fat. Going to experiment a little and see if I can come up with a light dressing for summer salads using the stock as well.

                                  Pressure cooking for stock is a great idea! Especially when keeping a regular supply of stock on hand.

                                2. Got into a silly disagreement on another thread about soaking and simmering country ham before cooking it. One of the best reasons is making huge ham stock.

                                  Generally, the reason for two steps, is if you need to strain the stock of stuff you don't want in your finished soup.