Twice each year, I offer a ham for a holiday gathering, Easter and again at Christmas. Twice each year, I am left with a mighty ham bone once the ham has been picked clean.
Used to be, I would only know to make split pea or ham and bean soup using this leftover ham bone. But last Easter, I schooled myself. I learned from an Italian chef during an online course, how to make homemade ham stock. And oh the dishes and soups BEYOND bean and split pea I have made thus far with that rich, nutrient-dense bone broth. Homemade ham stock is largely a hands-off project that repays you over and over again.Jump to Recipe
Use this Homemade Ham Stock to make
This ham stock recipe is very much a hands-off project that will give back each time you reach for it over and above a store bought can of broth.
By way of this post, I hope to teach a method for how to make homemade ham stock, a method which will become the basis for many more recipe posts on Not Entirely Average. A couple of years back, and long about late December or January, I overhauled both of my outside freezers. It's always a very daunting task, but here in Charleston, South Carolina, we get days like today that reach into the low 70s. The idea of sticking half my upper self into a cold freezer really is not all that as you can now probably see.
In October and November, and because I am cooking for Not Entirely Average, I tend to accumulate bunches of containers and vacuum sealed bags of trial-and-error dishes. Some of these recipes either made it to a post on NEA because they were awesome, or didn't make it because they could not be photographed well. If they're tasty and my family rated them delicious, we absolutely eat them.
The freezers yielded quite the bounty this time around. Enough where I needn't have shopped for much more than the proverbial 'bread and milk' for all of January, February, and March. April we skimmed off what was still hanging around.
Homemade ham stock is used in southern cooking to flavor and elevate many dishes to include collard greens, braised cabbage, red beans and rice, black eyed peas, porridge, braised bratwursts and sausages, and to cook noodles and pastas in lieu of water.
Food is obviously something near and dear to my heart. It makes me happy when people enjoy the food I prepare. It also makes me happy when people have food. Enough food. Too many times this horrible year the news on the television made me sob, as so many American's were in need of food. So many more that is, who never needed to ask for help before. And with the coming new year comes promises and hope of better times to come. There are those, and always unfortunately will be those, who just need assistance based on age, health, mobility, etc. I know of two such houses a few miles from me.
Stock is a 'do ahead' kitchen project by as many as 3 days. Once finished, let cool. At this point, you can cover and chill it, or freeze it for up to 3 months.
After a Costco run, and a couple of their fabulous rotisserie chickens later, I fill a Christmas box for both of these homes. This year, in addition to those chickens, sweet potatoes, cans of green beans and corn, I tucked in quarts of my homemade ham stock. Rather than buying ham hocks or ham bones, I included the ham bone stock for easy preparation of collards, okra and ham soup, and a base for black-eyed peas. If you have no idea what the foods are that I have just referenced, you'd best not come southbound without looking a few of these up. After all, you have to eat, and these staples are what's for dinner in Charleston.
There is no ham stock substitute that I am aware of that is as good as the ham broth or ham bone broth homemade. And as I mentioned earlier, there's more ways to use this well seasoned broth than just for making soup. Some ham hock stock uses come to mind immediately, including collards, rice porridge, one-pot egg noodles with sausage, red rice and beans, braised cabbage, and even braised brats. Making stock from scraps that might have been thrown away feels like getting free food, plus the homemade stock is so much more flavorful than anything canned. Did I mention that your house smells great while the stock is cooking? Call me frugal, but be sure to also call me smart.
How To Make Homemade Ham Stock
How to make ham stock is not a question I often get. I have had readers ask if there are any reasons to hang onto that ham bone after a holiday dinner. It's my hope that this post will become the basis for many recipe posts to follow that will absolutely use broth from ham bone. There are no fancy ingredients and you needn't whip out your slow cooker or pressure cooker for this. An easy ham broth recipe requires only a large stockpot. Bay leaves, as many cups water is it takes to sufficiently cover the bone, and the trilogy of onion, celery, and carrot help with the rest.
I also find about a tablespoon of whole black peppercorns to toss in. Bacon fat leftover from breakfast, crushed garlic cloves, and a bouquet garni help to layer the end product. A leek makes it even better if you've got one. The bag of frozen leeks from Trader Joe's are fantastic for things like this. Making broth from ham bone(s) and freezing it both in ice cube trays as well as plastic containers makes thawing it for use a cinch. I find using the ham stock cubes which I freeze in ice trays extremely handy. They add depth to my beef and pork ragu. I also cook pasta salad noodles using half ham stock and half water.
The best way to ham up your dish is to first make a stock and use that stock to cook the rest of the dish.
Once your stock is finished simmering, after about 3 hours, allow your soup a 24 hour rest in the refrigerator. This is not a suggestion, rather a quasi requirement if you plan to either use immediately or freeze. The fat solids need the change to float and collect at the top of the stock. Chilling it allows it to become somewhat firm and easily spooned off. In the photos I have selected to show, you can clearly see that layer of fat capping the stock. Remove this before using or freezing. The broth itself will not be fluid, rather mildly gelatinous. This is bone broth. In its chilled state, this is the correct consistency. If you've gotten it to this stage, you've done it all correctly!
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
- 8 quart stockpot
Did you know that it’s super easy to print out a version of a half recipe or even a double recipe on Not Entirely Average? Hover over the serving size (highlighted in blue, it says 24 on this recipe) and then slide the the white line to the left to make less or to the right to make more. This "calculator" allows you to play until you get the number of servings you want. Easy.
Use this Homemade Ham Stock to make Creamy Plantation Potato and Ham Soup
Ingredients for Homemade Ham Stock
- 2 tablespoons bacon grease
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small leek white and light-green parts only, chopped; may substitute ramps or green onions
- 1 small onion rough chopped
- 2 stalks celery rough chopped
- 2 large carrots rough chopped
- 6 cloves garlic peeled, crushed
- 1 ham bone scraps attached
- 2 sprigs parsley
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 2 large bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
The Method for Making Homemade Ham Stock
- Heat the bacon fat along with the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Cook leek, onion, celery, carrot, and garlic, stirring frequently, until tender and golden, about 10 minutes.
- Add ham bone, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns and cover with water about 1" above top of bone.
- Simmer, uncovered, until stock is flavorful and fragrant, about 3 hours. You will have about 1 quart of rich stock at this point, give or take.
- Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl; discard the solids all but for the larger pieces of ham that have fallen from the bone. Depending on your plans for the stock, the ham can be diced and saved for a later soup or other dish at the very end, like a garnish. If you want to be really over the top, fry the ham bits in bacon fat and then garnish with them. Then...drop the mic...