Saturday, April 07, 2012

Ham - Not Just for Easter (plus my ham and bean soup recipe)

It's Easter weekend, which means many people will be preparing a ham for the big meal.  For a lot of people this will be one of maybe 2 times they'll make a ham this year, but why just once or twice a year?  Hams are a great way to stretch your budget without really making it seem like you're eating on a budget.  At any time of the year you can pick up an unsliced half ham, 6 or 7 lbs for about $14-$16, this time of year you can usually grab one even cheaper (I stay away from the fancy spiral sliced hams for the most part, they're more expensive and I like being able to control how I cut the ham up).

You're probably wondering what my point is.  Well, for that $16 plus a few more... I can stretch it out for 5 meals, and no... they don't have to be all in a row.  I start on a Saturday with the baked ham (simple stuff... put it face down in a baking dish with a little water - or beer, beer works great! - cover it with foil and just let it bake at about 250º for a few hours until warmed through.  No need for fancy glazes or preps, it tastes great just like this).  After dinner I'll cut the ham up into more manageable pieces, store part in the fridge and some in the freezer, the bone gets wrapped in plastic wrap and a freezer bag and goes into the fridge or freezer for soup.  Now you have some ham in the fridge for sandwiches, or a casserole... there's another meal or two.  You can take the bone, place it in a large pot of water with some onions, garlic and bay leaf... simmer it down for a few hours and you have a great ham stock for soup.. which will get you another 2 meals (I often freeze the stock in a freezer bag to make the soup later).  If you separate some of the fattier end pieces that are too gristly to eat on their own and throw those in the freezer, you'll have it on hand to flavor a pot of beans or maybe some greens if you're southern at heart.  So... here's the breakdown of the last time I bought a ham:

Day 1: Baked ham with sides ( roasted potatoes and butter peas)
Day 2: leftovers from day 1
Day 3: Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches and Tomato Soup
Days 4 and 5: Ham and Bean Soup

Cost for 25 servings (5 meals for a family of 5, not including the pieces of ham saved for seasoning):
Ham - $14.00
Potatoes - $2.00
Butter Peas -  $2.29
Bread for 5 sandwiches: $1.00
Cheese for 5 sandwiches: $1.00 (this will vary depending on your choice of cheese)
2 onions for soup (1 for stock, 1 for the finished soup): $0.50
garlic, bayleaf and seasonings for soup - I don't count these as I consider them on hand pantry items
15 bean soup mix - $2.79
10 oz can mild Rotel - $1.00
cream sherry - a whole bottle costs about $5, but you need very little and it's optional, so we'll call this about $1.00

Cost per serving:  $1.02

Shan's Ham and Bean Soup

1 package 15 bean soup mix with ham flavoring
8 cups ham stock (if you don't have 8 cups you can supplement with water or chicken stock, you need enough to cover the beans by about an inch)
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbs minced garlic, or to taste
1 can mild rotel (you can use the regular or hot too if you prefer)
onion salt, cajun seasoning, salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
about 1/4 cup of cream sherry (I don't really measure this, it's to taste)
1 1/2 cups chopped ham

Wash and soak beans according to package directions.

Place soaked beans, onions, garlic, rotel, ham stock, sugar and seasonings in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender, usually about an hour and a half.  Add in cream sherry and allow to simmer another 20 minutes.  Add ham and heat through.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

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