Thursday, January 13, 2011

Culinary gold from the freezer

A ham bone in the freezer truly is culinary gold, an investment tucked away for the future that can turn a humble meal into something spectacular. I prepared a spiral cut ham at New Years, complete with black-eyed peas for luck, and then tucked the meaty ham bone in a freezer bag for the future. On Saturday, when snow kept us from a planned trip to visit relatives in Lake City, Tenn., and made going to the store a less than pleasant proposition, I pulled out my little package and set to work.

I put a cup of navy beans in a large stockpot and covered them with cold water. Always sort dried beans because they often contain small pebbles. I brought the pot to a boil, cut it off and left the beans to soak in the hot water and on the burner for about an hour.

I drained the beans in a colander and sorted them again.

I added the ham bone, a quart of water, three bay leaves, and a teaspoon of chopped garlic and set the beans back on the stove to cook.

When the pot came to a boil, I lowered the heat to low and let the whole thing simmer, covered, for about an hour.

Then I removed the ham bone and the large chunks of ham that had become so tender they were literally falling off the bone. I put them on a cutting board to cool (and I took a few nibbles, of course!)

I added about 3 more cups of water to the pot, chopped the meat in large chunks, then added the meat back to the simmering beans.

Because the ham is inherently salty and because dried beans often toughen with added salt, I did not add any salt to this recipe. I did add a liberal amount of black pepper and some coarse ground cayenne.

I fished out the bay leaves and dished up our meal. We also enjoyed some green grapes and bacon-wrapped sandwiches.

I added a bit of parsley for color…

And the soup bowls quickly looked like this:

Navy bean soup

1 cup dried navy beans, sorted
1 meaty ham bone
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
Black pepper

Soak the beans in water to cover overnight or cover the beans in water, bring to a boil and let sit in the hot water for about an hour. Drain and rinse. Place in a large stockpot; add one quart of water, meaty ham bone, garlic and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for about an hour. Remove ham bone from beans; place on a cutting board until cool enough to handle. Chop meat into bite-sized pieces, removing fat or gristle. Return ham to the pot. Remove bay leaves. Add more water, if necessary. Add black pepper and cayenne. Simmer another 30 minutes and serve. Serves 6-8.

1 comment:

  1. Simple and delicious! Just save the bone whenever you cook a ham, put it in a freezer bag and pull it out when you need it.