The very best flavor in soup comes from using a meat with the bone left in. This is true for beef, pork, chicken or whatever meat you use. With holiday hams, we often have a ham bone left. If some meat is left on the bone, it can be the base of a most savory and delicious soup. Even if there is no ham bone left, just a few chunks of meat is enough. Another option is to get some smoked ham hocks to add in that wonderful flavor. Long, slow cooking allows the bone to release all its goodness, and the ham remnants fall off the bone.
When using a ham bone with meat left on, this is more than salty enough so that no salt needs to be added to the soup. If you are using only chunks of ham, taste the soup towards the end of cooking time to ascertain if salt is needed.
All of these soups are very easy to make. The long cooking time means the soup will need to be monitored for water level, so it does not dry out. If temperature is kept at a very low simmer, all should be well.
1. Ham and Navy Bean Soup
In a large pot, place the ham bone with some ham on. Pour in 1 pound of navy beans, picked over and washed, 3/4 cup of long cooking barley, 1 onion, chopped, 3 carrots, peeled and chopped, one large tomato, chopped, 3 celery stalks, chopped, 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed and 2 bay leaves. Cover all this with water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and lower heat to simmer for 2 to 3 hours, until the beans have cooked through and have thickened the soup. Remove the bay leaves before serving. This makes a large pot of soup, so invite the family.
2. Split Pea, Ham and Vegetable Soup
This soup starts out similarly. Place the ham or hambone with meat into a large soup pot. Pour in one pound of green or yellow split peas. Add in 1 chopped onion, 3 carrots, peeled and cut in small dice, 3 celery stalks, cut in small dice, 1 large potato, peeled and cut in small dice. Cover with about 4 to 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 2 hours or until the split peas have disintegrated, and the soup is thickened. Add in one 10 ounce package of frozen chopped spinach and cook until the spinach has completely melted and heated through. This is another large pot of soup, so great for these winter nights.
3. Ham, Potato and Cheese Soup
Place into a large soup pot about 1 pound of leftover ham meat, or a ham bone with meat left on. Chop one onion and add to the pot, with 2 stalks of celery chopped in small bits. Add in 4 potatoes, peeled and cut in half inch dice, and pour in water to nearly cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow the soup to simmer, covered, for at least 1 to 2 hours, giving the ham time to fall off bones, if the bone is used. Remove bone and lightly mash the soup ingredients to make the potatoes into a thickener. Add in 1 can of evaporated milk and 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese and cook until the cheese has melted.
The first of these soups contains barley, so if you have gluten intolerance, just eliminate the barley from the soup. The other two soups contain no ingredients with gluten, so are safe for anyone with gluten intolerance. I hope these recipe suggestions will sound good, or spark new ideas for ways to make another wonderful soup with leftover ham.
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