If I could have just one stock in my freezer it would be ham stock. In the face of storm, famine, emergency in-law dinners, or a surprise horde of hungry soccer-buddies, this is the stuff I would like to call on to make magic with plain pantry staples.
What you see in this photo is all you really need. Old ham bones + onions + bay leaf + black pepper. And water of course. You can add other aromatics, but really, if you’ve got good ham you will not need much. Chuck everything into a big pot and you will turn out a stock that will knock your socks off…along with the socks of every dish you add it to. Ham stock is earthy, intense, full-bodied. Unlike chicken (or beef or fish or vegetable) stock, you get this amazing layering of flavors – you taste the pork that it once was, and the ham it eventually matured into…and everything else in between, as it waited for that day when chemistry and nature would push its flavor to the peak it was meant to reach (much like wine and cheese).
I started making ham stock when my mother taught me to cook fabada, a Spanish bean stew sort of dish with chunks of pork and chorizo (I feel this dish is open to a lot of interpretation…which is a good thing). The basis of her recipe was her stock, which is made with Jamon Serrano bones. This stock added an incredible depth of toe-curling flavor to the fabada. And I realized it could rightfully do so for many other dishes.
- 800 grams ham bones (I use either all Jamon Serrano bones, or a mix of Jamon Serrano and Majestic ham (a wet-cured ham) bones)
- 2 white onions, peeled and cut in quarters
- 5 dried bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 4 1/2 liters water (this will depend on the ham bones you use…a saltier dry-cured ham may need more water, while a milder wet-cured ham might need less)
- Place everything in a stockpot over medium-high heat until it reaches a boil.
- When boiling, remove scum that settles on the surface and lower heat.
- Let simmer for 2 – 2.5 hours, continually removing any scum that surfaces, until flavorful (let your taste be your guide). Cooking time will also depend on the saltiness of the ham you use.
- When done, set aside bones***, strain stock, and store.
- Yields about 10 cups stock.
In this recipe I use a mixture of bones, as can you, depending on availability and cost. As you can imagine, Jamon Serrano bones are a bit pricier than a regular supermarket ham bone, but well worth it for the flavor you get. Also, the deli where I get it does not always have bones ready for me to purchase. What I do then is use a mix of Jamon Serrano bones and Majestic Ham bones (a local wet-cured ham which is also smoked). You can also substitute other ham bones but I find dry-cured to have more flavor so try to toss in a least some of that. You can learn more about the difference between dry-cured and wet-cured here.
If you have a favorite Spanish restaurant or deli that sells Jamon Serrano or Iberico, go to them now and charm them for their bones! It takes a lot of ham to get to the bone so reserve your’s now! While you’re at it, ask them for any odd bits of the ham (like the ends) that they can sell to you along with the bone. Put these in with the bones when you make you stock. You won’t regret it :)
***If you used Jamon Serrano bones for your stock, don’t toss them out when you’re done! It will still have its heady aroma. Pick all the bits of ham meat off the bones – be patient, it will all be worth it. If you used any odd ham chunks (like the ends/edges/whatever your deli guy tossed in with the bones), shred them and add to your pile of ham bits. Stick all the bits in a Ziploc bag and place in the freezer. Any time you want to add a little oomph to a dish just take the bag out, bang it against the counter, take bunch of frozen ham shards, thaw, and add to just about anything that you think will benefit from a robust ham aroma. When I make fabada, they go in the mix as well. You can add them to soups, stews, and even sautéed vegetables as I did with cabbage.
Whew! Such hoopla about ham stock…it must be the book I’m reading. If you like ham, or pork in general, check it out :)
Stayed tuned for what I made with this…and no, it wasn’t fabada!
One last thing: I have been awarded the Blogging Community Involvement Award by Jaden of Jaden's Steamy Kitchen! To be awarded with anything from Jaden is an honor! She is fabulous and a visit to her Steamy Kitchen will always leave you with a smile on your face...if not in stitches laughing! I know these bloggers have probably been awarded already but hey, they double deserve it, so I'm awarding this to: Brilynn of Jumbo Empanadas, Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups, Susan of Food Blogga, Paz of The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz, and Meeta of What's For Lunch, Honey? :) (No pressures to pass this along...just wanted let you guys know that your involvement is appreciated!)