A little basic information and a dozen (or more) ways to make use of those marvelous ham leftovers. Scroll to the bottom to see our family’s favorite recipes.
There are so many ways to cook ham that I’m not going to go into specifics here; see my menu for Pork Main Dishes for our favorites. It’s nice to think about how strongly you may be flavoring with glazes and such, because that will affect the taste of your leftovers.
If I have a choice, and am buying a half ham, I generally go for the shank end. It looks tougher to carve and serve, but in all actuality, I think it’s easier than the butt end, and has a better bone for soups. I always buy the largest ham I can afford at the lowest Holiday prices, and often buy an extra to freeze.
Now, on to the best part: The Leftovers. Here’s how I handle the Ham:
- When the ham gets back to the kitchen, I almost always have volunteers for the basic cleaning duties. Yeah, I let them help. Just because I know it makes them feel so good. Umhmm. I like to work with the ham before I cool it down in the fridge. The meat and any fat is softer and more yielding so it saves a lot of work later, and it prevents the ham from sitting there, poor thing, languishing in crumpled foil somewhere in the back corner of the fridge. And quite often, once it’s in that corner in the packed fridge, it just doesn’t make it back out any time soon. Just try to keep your momentum going for a few more minutes and get this done.
- First, take enough slices to save for sandwiches and save in a Ziploc in the fridge.
- Look at the cut end of the ham and you’ll see there’s generally one larger roundish area in the ham, surrounded by a caul of fat. I actually reach in with my hands and knife and separate this out. This I dice into nice cubes, maybe about 1/2″ or a little less, to use for casseroles and dishes that I want to look “pretty.” You’ll have to work a little harder for the other pieces, so I carve, slice and hack my way through about all I can get. Both of these go into small freezer bags in varying amounts, depending on what I want to use them for. You have to judge how far you want it to go, and how many meals you’ll get out of it and what recipes you’ll be using. That’s why it’s nice to have some “go to” recipes your family likes. (Like mine, below)
- By the time I shot the picture above, We’d already had ham, and ham leftovers, and sandwiches, and I’ve made two soups, Navy Bean and Split Pea, and put some of each in the freezer. Here’s the rest of the ham, destined, too, for the freezer. The best part about the soups and the leftover ham for the freezer? These meals will actually generate leftovers of their own.
- One thing to be aware of: Those smaller pieces of ham will not last for a long time in the freezer; they’ll be fine in a deep freeze for months, but in a fridge/freezer, weeks or just a couple months or so, which is partially dependent on how often the door is opened and closed. Daily use speeds up transfers in humidity. Then they’ll begin to get a bit dry and deteriorate a bit. So don’t forget they’re in there!
- If I don’t make soup right away, I take the bone and put it into a large Ziploc for later, and refrigerate or freeze. Any accumulated sauce or jellied ham juices go right into the bag with the bone. They’ll add wonderful flavor to your soups.
Here’s what I do with those leftovers, keeping in mind, again, that you can freeze ham in the appropriate portions for a recipe, if you have an idea what you’re going to make. Look my recipes or your own before you buy the ham: in the same trip, you can buy everything you need to make any of the recipes you’d like to make right away, and save yourself a trip to the store.
sandwiches, fillings & salads
breakfast & brunch