Have you seen Ponyo? It’s a super cute Myazaki film about a little boy who rescues a goldfish, only the goldfish isn’t any ordinary goldfish. Instead, her mother is a sea goddess and her father is a wizard. During the film, she transforms from a fish into a girl, and is taken in my the boy’s family. During one of their meals, she tries ham for the first time, and discovers she loves it! At one point, she exclaims, “Ponyo wants ham!” That always cracks me up. Mostly because it sounds like something I’d say.
I love ham. I love love love love love ham. On Thanksgiving, I’d rather cook a ham than a turkey. I look forward to the next holiday that would be ham-appropriate (Easter, in case you’re interested). We always get a ham from our local butcher, Willowside Meats. I learned that they get their hams from Magruder Ranch, so they’re nice and local.
I always get a bone-in ham, so I can make ham stock. Which is what I’m doing today. You say you haven’t made stock before? Oh, it’s soooooo easy.
I like to saute in bacon fat. Basically because it gives the veggies a nice complex flavor. And also because we cook enough bacon that I feel as though I’m never going to run out of bacon fat.
Once the onion are soft and beginning to be transparent, I add chopped carrots and celery. I like to cut the carrots and celery a bit smaller than I would for soup, so they can release more of their flavor.
I like to continue to saute the vegetable for a few minutes so their sugars can start to caramelized. This is also the point where I add about “this much” of whole peppercorns.
I let the vegetables and peppercorns saute for a few minutes, to help release their flavors. But then it’s time to add the most important part: the ham bone.
And then the water.
Bring it to a boil, then turn it down and let it simmer for a couple of hours. Once that’s done, you strain out the vegetables and bones, and you’ve got stock!
I’ve used this stock to make soup. It’s also great for cooking beans. It gives them such a great, meaty flavor that you won’t even need to add any sausage or meat.