OK, maybe you went a little crazy cooking up a glorious, 12-plus pound bone-in ham for a party of six this Easter. Luckily, ham lends itself well to sandwiches, frittatas, hashes, salads and more, but there’s one more part of that ham you need to use in all its glory: the bone. And that’s where the wonderful post-Easter tradition of ham and bean soup comes into play.
After you use all of the big slices of ham for various recipes and snacking, there’s still so much meat left on the bone, and of course, the bone itself. It seems wasteful to just toss this in the trash, but ham and bean soup makes the most of these meat scraps and bone. In fact, it’s one of the all-time best ways to use food scraps.
First, start by making your own ham stock with the bone and aromatics. Like most stocks, let this simmer over low heat for about 2 hours, though you can really keep going for as long as eight hours for a particularly robust flavor. After straining the stock, pick the leftover ham meat off the bone, dice it up and save it for later in the recipe.
After that, the recipe is remarkably easy. Just add onion, carrots and celery to the stock along with diced ham and whatever ham you got off the bone. Add a large jar (or two cans) of drained and rinsed beans (whatever beans you have on hand is fine), some seasoning and let it all cook together. Finish up with some fresh parsley for a bit of freshness, and you're eating well.
For some families, ham and bean soup is as much of an April tradition as a major Easter feast. If you didn’t get a bone-in ham, don’t worry, there are easy ham soup recipes that just use diced meat. There’s also an easy slow cooker take on this soup. And if soup isn’t your thing at all, there are still tons of easy, delicious ways to use leftover ham.
This recipe was adapted from a recipe by Susan M. Selasky of the Detroit Free Press, and was originally published in the Chicago Tribune.
For the stock:
- 1 meaty ham bone from a leftover ham
- 16 cups water
- 5 sprigs parsley
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 2 carrots, peeled, cut into chunks
- 2 ribs celery, with leaves, cut into chunks
For the soup:
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 large onion, peeled, chopped
- 2 large carrots, peeled, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick pieces
- 3 ribs celery, sliced
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups leftover diced ham
- 1 (32-ounce) jar great northern beans, drained, and rinsed
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley (optional)
For the stock:
Step 1: In a large stockpot, place 1 ham bone, 16 cups water, 5 sprigs parsley, 1 medium onion (quartered), 2 peeled and sliced carrots and 2 ribs sliced celery. Place over medium heat until it just begins to bubble. Cover slightly; reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours, adding more water if needed.
Step 2: Remove the bone; reserve. Strain the stock; return to stockpot. Pick off any meat from the bone, discarding fat; chop the meat.
For the soup:
Step 1: In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add 1 large chopped onion, 2 large sliced carrots and 3 sliced ribs of celery. Cook until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes.
Step 2: Add the stock, 1 1/2 to 2 cups leftover diced ham and any ham from the bone, and 1 jar rinsed and drained great northern beans; heat over medium heat. Simmer until carrots are softened, about 45 minutes.
Step 3: Just before serving, season with salt and pepper to taste; stir in 1/2 cup chopped parsley (optional). Top with homemade croutons, if you like.
Notes: You can substitute 1 pound dried navy or other favorite white bean in this recipe. Dried beans are best soaked overnight — they will triple in size. If you're in a hurry, follow the quick soak method on the package.