The Literate Chef

The Gift of Christmas Ham that Kept on Giving

In General Articles on December 28, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Christmas has come and gone, but the remains of the ham are still with us. Thanks to the kindness of our friend Rita, we found ourselves with a 12 pound Schaller & Weber bone–in smoked ham for Christmas.  Originally we had planned on a prime rib roast for Christmas dinner, but the receipt of the unexpected ham necessitated a new game plan. The Roasted Rosemary Potatoes would still work, but the ham, which would be baked with an orange-honey-brown sugar-mustard glaze called out for Dorothea’s Asparagus Tips as the green vegetable, rather than the originally planned Brussel Sprouts Roasted with Hazelnuts.

I was assigned ham duty and my wife took on responsibility for the asparagus and potatoes. The ham proved to be delicious and moist, unlike last year’s spiral cut ham, which became dried out as the interior was exposed to too much heat. Spiral cut hams are a great convenience, particularly for a buffet where each guest can cut off his or her own portion. But on balance, I think a whole uncut ham is superior in flavor and the carving is not all that difficult.

There were only six of us for Christmas dinner, so needless to say there were plenty of leftovers in the ham department. Big Mike always said, the best parts of a smoked ham are the leftovers and the ham bone. He loved frying up the ham for breakfast, which we did in his honor, on two mornings: fried ham and fried eggs the first day and then a ham and cheese omelet a few days later. Then the decision, what to do with the ham bone, which he usually employed in his favorite, Split Pea Soup. But a check of the pantry revealed a 2 pound bag of black beans, and a search of the refrigerator uncovered a package of Spanish Chorizos. With those ingredients readily available, it was not hard to envision a big batch of Black Bean Soup .

After a consulting Cook’s Illustrated.com for the basics on Black Bean Soup, I deleted some ingredients, salt (I figured the ham had plenty of salt), baking soda and cornstarch and added some others, jalapenos, chorizos and rum. I also adapted the proportions of vegetables to my personal taste. Most importantly, I conducted a research of chicken stock at our local supermarket. To my amazement, the quantity of sodium in each brand available on the shelf varied from a low of 150 mg per 240 ml (1 cup) for Kitchen Basics Unsalted Chicken Stock to over 900 mg per 240 ml for the store brand private label. According to Please, Don’t Pass the Salt! Blog, Swanson’s Unsalted Chicken Stock contains 13%  lower sodium – 130 mg per cup, but Swanson’s was not available on the supermarket shelf that day.

So from the gift of Christmas ham, not only did we have a memorable Christmas dinner but managed to eke out about 6 quarts of soup, breakfast meat for two mornings and still have  a half pound of ham leftover for sandwiches. Thanks Rita!

  1. Richard, In Julia Child’s The Way to Cook there is a great recipe for a use of a ham bone in split pea soup The recipe calls for first making a first a ham stock from the bone. This stock and the use of the standard vegetables plus a turnip make a sensational soup.

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