Monday, March 11, 2013

Ham Bone Stock (Bone Broth)

Stock to a cook is voice to a singer.

I have saved vivid memories from my growing years, of the Welcome Home after a long mid-winter's school day. The lengthy, cold bus ride home over jouncy, jutted gravel roads was finally over. Often I would pass the riding home time by pressing my nose and mouth against the frozen and frost-nipped bus windows and breathing warm air on them to make a melted spot just large enough to peek through. The barren Southern Minnesota farm fields fill up with snow so high that sometimes I could, in my imagination, pretend I was somewhere warm, like the dessert, staring at sand dunes instead of blowing, whisking snowflakes forming hills and valleys all over the county. By the time that golden yellow bus pulled up to my driveway the sun was in full sun set mode, falling lower and lower on the horizon. 

When I was young enough my mom was still home with the little kids and it wasn't unusual to open the front door and be comforted by the warmth of the wood stove and the smell of fresh baked bread and soup simmering on the gas stove. It always made my mouth water to see that homemade bread all brown and glistening with fresh butter on the cutting board. The soup though is a thing of beauty all on its own. The big kettle three quarters full, steam twisting, curling, unfurling from the open pot like young ferns do in the spring. 

After stomping the snow off my boots and peeling off layers of outer wear I would hurry over and see what kind we were having. Thick and bubbly split pea with chunks of potato? Chicken with carrots and spaetzle? Hamburger with tomatoes and corn? Ham and Bean? Oh the possibilities were almost endless. 

That steam would warm me right up and to this day I crave warm filling soup on a cold day. It is frugal, versatile, healthy, and easy!

I was given a ham bone after a Christmas party way back at the end of December and threw it in the freezer. Last week I decided it was time to cook that bone down and make some soup. I do not profess to be and expert, just a cook with a bit of experience. So here is my basics for ham stock. :)

Day 1:
Stock Pot
 I like this stock pot. It holds about 8 to 10 quarts comfortably. You want one that is deep enough to hold a chicken carcass and cover it with a couple inches of water.  This is a tutorial for ham bone broth but it could easily adjust for chicken or beef or even veggie broth. It was inexpensive for the amount it is used. On a side note I used it to water bath can some things last fall. It was a good investment.

Veggies and Bone
When I am trimming celery, or peeling carrots I will save those extras and bag them and put in my freezer for soup day. Instead of throwing out the bits of onion or garlic throw them in a bag and place in the freezer. When it comes time to make stock use those veggie bits and pieces instead of cutting up new ones. It is the ultimate in frugal cooking when you can use as much as possible and waste little .

Notice, as well, that the ham bone is fairly meaty. You want a bone that isn't picked completely clean. Those are still usable but make a thinner broth. I will usually try to leave, on purpose, some meat in the bag or on the bone. You will be thankful on soup day that you did. :)

Cloves, Allspice, Bayleaf
Place all those veggie scraps, your meaty ham bone, and some spices in the stock pot. Cover with water. I would use good old fashioned tap water if it is good to drink. Cover those veggies and bone fully, about two inches or so over the top. They need to be fully submerged. 

Apple Cider Vinegar
I learned to add an acid of some sort. This will, so I am told, help to pull all that goodness out of the bones. I have used a lemon, vinegar, red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar. A couple Tablespoons or a half a lemon should do it.

Now set that pot to simmer on a back burner, cover it up, and ignore it for the most part all day. I check every couple of hours to make sure it isn't dry or simmering too high. If you need to add water now and then, go for it. The idea is to slowly cook down that bone so that the meat will fall off and the marrow will leach out into the water, thus flavoring it. The longer you cook it down the better the broth. The meat and veggie should shrink down and the water should condense almost by half.
Please, do not rush this. Making good stock is an easy, basic, mostly hands off project. It does however take time. Give it the time it needs. A day is not an over estimate. I almost always cook for a day and then pick through the rest on day 2. 
That being said, at the end of the day, I take the whole pot and put it in the fridge over night.

Day 2:

Take that stock pot out of the fridge. The fat should have risen to the top. I skim the fat off and throw it. My dad would hate that. :) But I can't stomach it.

Strain the broth through a large colander.
Using a large colander, strain the broth through the first time to catch all the veggies and meat and bone.

I like to then use a fine sieve strainer to strain once more. This is preference and really not necessary.

Stock for the Freezer.
This particular time I got enough stock for a batch of soup in the crock pot (5 quarts), and was able to freeze about 9 cups of leftover broth. The picture above shows them in 2 cup Parmesan cheese containers. I mark them and date them before putting in the freezer. This stock is good for cooking beans, for flavoring rice, or adding to stew or soup when it has gotten too thick.

Pick through the colander.
Now onto the messy part. Pick through that leftover veggie/meat/bone mess and save out the meat. If I had more critters I would probably share that leftover bone, but our Miss Ivy Kitty is a Diva Cat and refuses to eat anything but her Friskies. Therefore, I chuck all this leftover in the garbage at this time. :)

I ended up with about a cup or so of meat. Now this is plenty for us as we are having Ham and Bean soup. If you need more, add from another source. 

Add that Ham to your soup stock.
At this point, your soup is ready for all the yumminess you can come up with. Add what your heart desires. Vegetables, beans, lentils, split peas, pasta. The possibilities with a good stock are almost endless.

Part 2 of this series will be my recipe for Ham 'n Bean Soup. It is filling to the tummy and good for the soul. Stay Tuned!

Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)
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  1. I love Ham, and I also love utilizing every last drop of whatever I am cooking. I am definitely going to have to do this next time I make a bone in ham!! I recently started a Thursday link-up party (yes, today:), and I would really love to see this post and/or any others you would like to include. I am at Hope to see you there and for many more Thursday's to come!!

    1. :) I hate wasting any of that ham! This way you get an extra meal or two or three!
      Thank you for the invite! I will swing over. :)

  2. My parents grew up in the Great Depression so making as much as possible out of what little you have was key to survival. I'm glad you mentioned adding some sort of acid to the broth to bring out the marrow which is really the flavor. I put my ham bone in a crockpot for two days and it really adds a yummy base to any soups I dream up. Excellent article.

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