Crock Pot o’ Ham

Do you have a frugal streak and like to buy holiday hams after the holiday when they are on sale, but don’t have a lot of freezer space to store them? I discovered a trick for rendering those shoulders and haunches into serviceable size pieces.

Buy smaller hams to begin with. The price per pound won’t be any different, and while you do get a bit more bone, for this project, I find it worth it.

We started with an 11 pound ham. It was placed into a crock pot flat side down. Some of the pointy end of the ham did have to be sliced off so that the lid would close. It was allowed to slow roast over night on a low setting. Nothing was added, as this was the first time this process had been tried in our kitchen.

In the morning, the ham looked whole and brown, and was sitting in about 4 inches of it’s own juices. The top seemed a little dry, but not excessively so. The bits that had been sliced off which had not been covered by the juices were practically jerky, but re-hydrated well. Using tongs and a fork, I peeled back the top meat, and removed the bones with a bit of a tug. They slid right out, clean of any meat or cartelidge. Likewise, the fatty bits were very discernable, and could be lifted or scraped from the meaty parts.

Some of the chunks of muscle were sliced, some pulled (shredded), and some simply eaten right off the mass. This enabled us to freeze whatever we didn’t need right then into smaller packages that fit well in the freezer. Other bits became pulled pork sandwiches and salad toppings immediately. Yet more was set aside for dirty rice (which turned out exceedingly well). The remaining meat was nibbled on as sandwiches and ready snacks for the next two days.

The broth, while salty and concentrated, was reserved for later use. The plan is to set up our New Year’s black eyed peas with some of it. By using the broth, there is no worry over bone flakes from a hambone, no need to add bullion or salt, and it’s ready to use. The broth may be frozen if it won’t be used within a couple of days, or simply kept refrigerated.

Another portion of the broth, the leftovers once the meat and fat has been removed from the crock pot, had two pounds of split green peas and lentils, 12 oz of spinach, and 4 cups of water added. The resulting pot of peas cooked quickly and served as supper and breakfast. Given a little less fluid and some form of lard and appropriate spices, it would easily have become refried beans.

I’m calling this experiment a success. Given that 11 pounds of ham (fat and bone included) was rendered into meat components for at least five 4-person meals, broth for at least 2 more meals, scraps to supplement several more meals for our House Husky, and 2 dog well-cooked bones for her as well, we managed to stretch this out a lot further than we had expected.

Depending on the need for the next foray into slow roasting a ham like this, we may season it with roasted garlic, or cinnamon and ginger.

We’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out!

— Ann Cathey

 

PS: Sorry I didn’t include photos for this entry. The Holidays are a bit nuts at our house!

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