|Cooked ham with the bone in.|
First - What Kind of Ham?It's important to differentiate between pressed ham and real ham. For years, I thought I didn't like ham because all I'd ever tasted was pressed ham - that is, "ham" made from miscellaneous bits and pieces of the pig and pressed into shape (usually an egg or half egg). Trust me; that stuff tastes completely different from real ham, which is the upper portion of the rear leg of a pig.
For the best ham, purchase with the bone in. You may think you're paying for bone you will never use, but not only is buying it with the bone the best deal, but I'll show you how to use the bone to add great flavor in cooking.
Whether or not you choose to purchase the ham pre-cooked or not is a matter of personal preference.
|The ham bone and drippings are valuable flavor enhancers.|
How to Get 8 or More Dinners for 4 from a Single HamNot long ago, I purchased a 16 lb. ham for $16. I got more than 8 meals for 4 adults from that ham. Here's how:
Meal 1: Sliced ham and in-season vegetables.
Meal 2: Scramble made with large amounts of chopped ham.
Meal 3: Split pea and ham soup.
Meal 4: The split pea and ham soup was so tasty, we had it again the following night.
Meal 5: Omelets with plenty of diced ham.
Meal 6: Casserole with ham chunks in it.
Meal 7: Mac and cheese with diced ham. (The kids love it!)
Meal 8: Split pea and ham soup, which I froze and we ate several months later.
Bonus Meal 9: Soup made with pork stock.
There are endless ways to use up left over ham. Check out the ham recipes at Allrecipes.com (they also have a special section for "leftover ham") or at About.com to get just a quick overview of the possibilities, which include sandwiches, salads, soups, casseroles, hash, stir fry, jambalaya, and bakes.
If you bake your own ham, be sure to keep the drippings in the pan. Use them to make gravy, or add them to the water when you cook soup. (You can freeze the drippings for later use.)
Since you purchased ham with the bone in, be sure to take advantage of the bone. Remove as much of the edible meat from the bone as you can, then dump the bone and everything else left attached it in a pot. Fill the pot with water and simmer for 1 to 2 hours. (If you like, you may also add salt, pepper, and veggies like celery and carrots.) Place the stock in the refrigerator overnight, then skim off any fat that rises to the top.
Use this stock to make soup (instead of using water or store bought stock), or use it in place of store bought broth. If you make split pea and ham soup, you can dump the bone into the soup (even after making stock) to help flavor the soup. I also usually find that after boiling the bone for a while, more edible meat comes off of it. (You may also freeze the bone for later use.)
Freezing and Canning HamYour family probably won't mind a variety of ham dishes for a few days, but chances are they won't want 8 or more days of ham. So plan on freezing some of it.
For easiest use later, it's a good idea to cut the meat the way you'd use it for cooking, then freeze it in sizes suitable for those dishes. For example, I usually use ham in chunks or dice, so I'd cut the meat accordingly, then put, say, 2 cups in a freezer bag, since that's what our favorite dishes call for. For best results, remove as much air from the bag as possible and use the meat within 6 months.
You can also freeze stock made from the ham bone. Hard containers usually are easier for this (just make sure they are freezer proof), but bags work fine, too, as long as someone can hold the bag upright while you pour liquid into it.
Also consider canning some ham. It's tasty this way and is the ultimate in convenience; there's no need to thaw the meat before using it, and the meat is more tender, too. To learn how to can ham, check out this tutorial.
Finally, when you find ham on sale, it's just fine to freeze a whole ham for later use.
Featured at: Homestead Abundance Tuesdays #1