I am a terrible blogger. I don't write often enough and when I am immersed in something I almost never remember to take pictures. Please forgive me, all 7 of you! Let me try to make up for all of my past and future indiscretions with this one post about a useful and fabulous food that no one ever seems to talk about.
The subject most on my mind today is Ham Broth. Why don't people talk about it more? I just don't understand. Yes it is salty and more fattening than chicken broth, but that is because it tastes like ham, People. Yum!
What do I use it for? Everything! I make soup with it, especially bean soups; put it in casseroles; cook rice with it; cook veggies in it (Oh yes, I do!). My two favorites uses for ham broth have to be ham & dumplings and ham gravy.
Ham & dumplings is exactly what it sounds like. My mom is not a from scratch cook. Really. As a child I thought that Campbell's was the only kind of soup to be had in this world and Swanson were the people who froze our dinner for us every night. In the late '70s, though, my mom and step-dad bought a farm out in the sticks and built a house complete with a woodstove in the basement. One day in the deep, dark cold of an Upstate New York winter, my mom put a picnic ham into a huge pot, filled the pot with water and set it on the woodstove to cook. The smell of that brought me and my sister down the stairs to the basement like in one of those cartoons where you kind of fly though the air led by your nose. You know what I'm taking about? It was incredible to smell real food cooking. After hours and hours on the woodstove the ham fell apart into the broth and mom made dumplings right on top of all that scrumptious goodness. Hot Dog! Or, rather, real, actual food!
Years later, as I was making my own boiled ham I thought "Why have I never had ham gravy?" It sounds really good, right? You should be able to make it like any other gravy - fat, broth, thickener, right? Right! It is simple to make and you should see the look on someone's face the first time they put a forkful of mashed potatoes with ham gravy into their pie hole. You can almost hear angels singing.
Geez, that yogurt I had for breakfast was a long time ago and I'm making myself hungry, here. You know I'm having a ham sandwich for lunch, right?
Ok, Grace, how does one make ham broth? Put a big ham in an even bigger pot, fill it with as much water as you can get in there, and simmer it for hours and hours. When the meat is falling off the bone, remove the meat, allow it to cool, and pull the meat off. I divide it into two cup portions and freeze it. The skin, fat, and bones go right back into the stockpot. I put in a good splash of apple cider vinegar in the batch I made this weekend, and let simmer it even longer, until the broth is rich and concentrated and the bones have given up all of the good stuff. Oh yummyness. I have it in bowls in my fridge right now. When I get home from work tonight I will skim the fat off and freeze it for making ham gravy later. I will also put the bones and some of the broth and fat in my most enormous pot (My beloved cousin-in-law Debra calls pots like this Jethro pots.) with a huge amount of collard greens (and some water and red pepper flakes and plenty of apple cider vinegar) and cook that for a good, long time because I like collards cooked all the way until they are good and soft. There are only two people in my house but we go through collards like an army. Tomorrow night for dinner we will have some of the boiled ham which I will pop briefly into the oven to crisp it up a little; collards; and mashed potatoes with ham gravy. I can't wait to chow down on all of that. Too snug jeans, here I come!
Later this winter when it is good and cold I will make a pot of ham & dumplings. It is awesome comfort food for a cold, blustery winter's day.