It’s the season for ham to be on sale. While I didn’t go completely frugal, opting for a spiral cut ham at $1.39/lb rather than an uncut shank or butt ham for less, I do try to make the most of it.
There are all the ways ham can be served. With a meal as the meat centerpiece. With eggs. In a sandwich. But my favorite, using the bone and more of the meat than some people traditionally would, is to use the remnants of the ham as the basis of a pea soup.
I always loved my grandmother’s pea soup, and my mother has taken over doing a good job of it. What surprised me is the first time I ever made one , some 4 – 5 years ago, it was better than any pea soup I’d ever had, matriarchal or otherwise.
That was having no clue how to make one, and as usual taking my cues from recipes online. I’ve varied it, but basically it’s the same deal. I boil the bone and attached meat at some length and ultimately get it off the bone, then cook dry peas in the resulting broth with meat, maybe adding additional meat. There can be onion if I have any. There can be shredded carrot for variety, if I have any and feel like it. Seasoning is mostly the smoky meat and the flavor inherent in the peas, but besides some onion it’s most likely to involve bay leaf, maybe some garlic. I believe I’ve put in some red pepper flakes before, as I would for certain beef dishes.
I like split peas for cooking speed, and don’t mind the mushier texture. Turns out my grandmother prefers whole peas. The time I tried them, it seemed like they took forever to get done. She actually starts with them and adds the meat, where I automatically started by cooking down the meat, as I would with a chicken or turkey carcass to make broth/soup. I like lentils so much, I’ve been tempted to make a lentil soup with ham, but have yet to try it.
Ham is easier to deal with than poultry, in terms of separating out the bone/joint pieces later. My chicken soup almost always has a piece of bone lurking somewhere. Have yet to figure out a foolproof method. For that matter, have yet to settle on a method I prefer for separating the bones after cooking a chicken carcass into submission. Perhaps the closest I’ve come to foolproof was to use a pasta insert that came with my big stock pot, allowing me to pull the solids entirely out of the broth easily, then pick through and throw in what belonged in the transformation to soup. But I digress.
One of my projects for the day is to make pea soup. Thought I’d make a note of it here, since it fits the theme.
Do you make soups like pea soup, chicken, turkey, or otherwise to stretch more food out of what might be marginal leftovers or discards? Any other stretching ideas?
When I remove the chicken carcass after simmering for a few hours, first I remove the big chunks/carcass from the broth, then pour through a large fine strainer set in a large rubbermaid container. This keep out all the flotsam and jetsam that appears in the broth. If there is meat still left on the carcass, I pick it off after it cools. I let the broth cool on the counter before refrigerating. Then, in the morning, I gently skim off all the fat, which has risen to the surface and has slightly hardened. I always make bread (thank you bread machine!) and we have chicken soup and bread with a salad for dinner. SO yummy – great winter food!