A ham is loved for more than just its meat -- the bone is great for making soup.
Once the ham is pretty much picked over, cut up any big chunks of meat still attached to the bone into bite-size pieces along with the leftover ham. The chopped ham and the meaty bone can go into a freezer bag and into the freezer.
If you've done that, keep in mind that ham in general doesn't freeze well for a long period of time. For best quality, use it within 1 to 2 months.
My plan was to make ham and bean soup -- one of the best uses for a ham bone.
When scouring recipes, I found many that simmered the meaty bone with dried beans that were soaked overnight; others used canned beans and a stock made from simply simmering the bone in water.
I opted for a stock version because I wanted the stock to simmer a while and develop flavor. And I planned on making the stock base one day and the soup the next.
I added aromatics such as parsley and thyme and big chunks of carrots and onions to the broth for flavor. After a long simmer, however, the parsley became a yucky green and the carrots mushy, and they needed to be strained out.
When it came to making the soup, I skipped using dried beans because I had a jar of Great Northern beans on hand. You can substitute 1 pound dried navy or other favorite white bean in this recipe.
Dried beans are best soaked overnight -- they will triple in size. If you're in a hurry, follow the quick soak method on the package. Using dried beans is cost-effective because a 1-pound bag is about $1. After soaking, that bag of beans will equal 6 cups of cooked beans. That works out to about four cans (14.5 ounces each) of beans, which cost about $1 each.
But canned beans save time because they are cooked and ready to use.
Another reason I used the jarred beans was to thicken the soup if needed. I drained and rinsed the beans, but reserved the liquid. If the soup is too thin, swirl some of the liquid into the soup to thicken it. Or puree 1/2 cup of the beans with the bean liquid or some of the stock and use that to thicken the soup.
Making a big batch of this Ham and Bean Soup is great to feed a crowd. If you make enough soup to freeze, place it in containers with about 1/2 inch of headspace, or freeze in bags.
The soup should keep about two months.
Ham and Bean Soup
1 meaty ham bone from a leftover ham
16 cups water
5 sprigs parsley
1 medium onion, quartered
2 carrots, peeled, cut into chunks
2 ribs celery, with leaves, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, peeled, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick pieces
3 ribs celery, sliced
Stock from above
1 1/2 to 2 cups leftover diced ham plus ham picked from bone
1 jar (32 ounces) Great Northern beans
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped parsley, optional
To make the stock: In a large stock pot place ham bone, water, parsley, onion, carrots and celery. Place over medium heat until it just begins to bubble. Cover slightly, reduce heat to simmer and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add more water if needed.
Remove the bone and set it aside. Strain the stock back into the pot. Or strain into a bowl, cool and refrigerate overnight. Pick off any meat from the bone, discard fat and chop the meat.
To make the soup: In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Saute about 5 minutes or until the onions are softened. Add the stock, chopped ham and beans; heat over medium heat. Simmer about 45 minutes or until carrots are softened. Just before serving, season with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley. Makes 12 cups.
Nutritional analysis per 1 cup: 185 calories (19 percent from fat), 4 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat), 27 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 515 milligrams sodium, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams fiber.