Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ham Stock

One of the most traditional ways to stretch the number of meals you get out of your meat purchases is to make stock from the bones and trimmings.  If you are a meat-eater, this is a great, low-cost way to get maximum value from your meat investment.  If you are mostly-vegetarian, as I am, then it is a good way to get a little animal protein in your diet without actually having a meat-heavy meal. 

For this batch, I took the bone and the tough "butt" of the ham from our delayed Easter dinner.  I put it in a large stew pot, covered it with water, and simmered for an hour with a diced onion, a couple of bay leaves, and some cracked black pepper.  When the stock was dark brown and smelling yummy, I strained it into some quart freezer containers and popped it in the freezer.  This batch came in at about three quarts.  I plan to use it to make a batch of my Cheesy Potato Soup.

I believe the ham took less time to make a decent stock because it is already seasoned and cured.  Beef and chicken will probably take closer to two hours, based on my research, so plan ahead to do this on a weekend or a day or evening when you want to be in the kitchen to smell the great smells.  Depending on the meat you use, you may have to skim fat (or schmaltz, in the case of chicken) off the stock before you freeze it.

I have started a "stock bucket" in the freezer for DH and I to throw meat trimmings and bones; when it is full, we will make another batch of stock.

The Analysis

Fast:  Although this took an hour, there was nearly no prep time, so I just needed to find a time I was near the kitchen doing something else so I could keep an eye on the stock pot.

Cheap:  For the price of an onion and some spices, I took a chunk of ham that would have been wasted and made the basis of a future meal.  For reference, a quart of Meijer Organics chicken broth, which I usually use as a soup base, is $2.27 a quart.  So, my little project saved $6.81, minus the inputs.  I would say this netted me $6.50 in savings.

Good:  The smell alone was worth the time investment; I can't wait for the soup!
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