I usually prepare prime rib for our Christmas dinner, but this year I decided to serve spiral cut glazed ham with au gratin potatoes, roasted asparagus, Caesar salad, and homemade potato rolls…everybody’s favorite side dishes. I bought a large ham so we would have lots of leftovers and a big ham bone for a pot of soup.
A ham bone with lots of meat on it is like gold and, with a little bit of preparation, will produce a stock that will take a pot of soup to a whole new level. When you are ready to make stock cut large pieces of ham off the bone and set aside. Place every speck of leftover ham…pan juices, crispy sugary bits of the crust, any fat that remains in the baking pan…everything…into a large stock pot. I use my large Le Creuset cast iron Dutch oven. Add 10-12 cups water, enough to almost cover the bone. Add large pieces of celery, carrots, onions, parsley, bay leaves, and peppercorns and bring the pot to the boiling point. Reduce heat so the stock is just simmering, cover, and cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. The vegetables in this step will be discarded when the stock is finished so don’t worry about carefully chopping them…large pieces will do fine. When the ham has fallen off the bone remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. When the stock is cooled and refrigerated all the fat will rise to the top and can be easily removed. Cover the pan with foil or plastic wrap when you refrigerate it. Putting the cast iron lid on the pot will keep the heat in and it won’t chill properly or safely. After the fat is removed warm the stock and remove the ham bone and vegetables. Pour the stock through a strainer to remove any small bits of ham and cooked veggies. Now you are ready to make soup.
This lentil soup recipe is the basic one my grandmother used and almost any meat can be substituted for the ham…or don’t use any meat at all. Sausage, chicken and beef all make a delicious soup and almost any vegetables can be used. Red wine vinegar and mustard are the secret ingredients that make this soup my grandmother’s. If you try this recipe be sure to add them.
- 1 large ham bone or 3 smoked ham hocks
- 10-12 cups water
- 4 stocks celery, cut into large pieces
- 3 carrots, cut into large pieces
- 2 onions, peeled and cut in half
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 peppercorns
- handful of fresh parsley
- 8-10 cups good quality ham or chicken stock
- 2-3 cups cooked ham, cut into a large dice
- ½ pound (1-1/2 cups) lentils
- 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup cubed, peeled potato
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 1 cup chopped celery
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Combine ham bone, water, vegetables and seasoning in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Cool and remove the ham bone and large pieces of vegetables. Strain the stock and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Wash and pick through the lentils. Place in a large pot with the soup stock and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1-1/2 hours or until lentils are tender.
- In a medium saute pan cook onion, carrots, celery until tender and potatoes are starting to soften.. Add this mixture to the cooked lentils. Add salt (be sure to taste first), pepper, thyme, mustard and vinegar. Simmer for about an hour. Add chopped parsley and cook another 15 minutes. If soup is too thick it can be thinned with a little chicken stock.