A little basic information and a dozen ways to make use of those marvelous leftovers. Scroll to the bottom of the post for a dozen of our family’s favorite recipes. For Turkey leftovers, see 12 Days of Turkey.
There are so many special ways to cook ham: family recipes, guides, instructions, etc., that I’m not going to go into specifics here. 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. I generally cook mine simply, and I use beer as a basting liquid, or if I have none of that, I’ll use some kind of sweet soda. So simple, and so moist and delicious.
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, 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. 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 1/3 cup to 1 1/2 cup 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. Can I shout out an unreserved “Bonus,” while I’m humming my 12 days of Ham song in my head? On the first day of haaaaam, weeee had split pea…
- 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.
12 Ham Recipes: From Easy to Elegant
Ham Broth: I’ve probably been remiss in talking about the ham broth, the basis for almost any great soup. There is a way to handle the ham bone in a frugal manner, which I’ve alluded to in some of the recipes, but perhaps haven’t fully explained. So, a recipe seems in order! One is coming, but in the meantime, check under my Cuban Black Bean soup for a description.
Day 2: Easy One Dish Ham or Turkey Bake: So easy a child can make using canned soup, but there’s directions for making a home-made sauce. The topping is a Bisquick fake out.
Day 3: Hot Broiled Sandwiches: A fun way to rework leftovers from a Thanksgiving Turkey or a Holiday Ham. Raid your fridge and layer ingredients on a an open-faced sandwich,
Day 4: Light Hot Browns: Another great way to take advantage of any leftover Turkey or Ham, Hot Browns are layered with meat, a little bacon and vegetables and blanketed with a Cheese Sauce.
Day 5: Navy Bean Soup with Bacon: One of the first soups I learned to make, this is a more flavorful version than plain old Ham and Bean or Senate Navy Bean soup. It’s a 35 year favorite here!
Day 6: Scalloped Potatoes, Like the Ones your Grandma made! – These REALLY are. This recipe is from my 1950’s era Betty Crocker Cookbook. This is our go to after a ham dish!
Day 7: Split Pea Soup: A humble soup, Split Pea Soup is under appreciated. It’s like the old jeans you throw on for around the house – until you slip them on, you don’t realize how comforting they are.
Day 8: Cuban Black Bean Soup with Rice: An absolute favorite, this soup is addictive. A few touches brighten the soup, and the garnishes of rice and vegetables make it a meal.
Day 9: Old-Fashioned Ham Loaf: This recipe is printed exactly as it came out of my Grandmother’s recipe box, and tastes exactly as I remembered. A hint of clove adds a haunting flavor.
Day 10: Elegant Mushroom Lemon Basil Soup with Wild Rice: Not the ubiquitous gloppy Wild Rice Soup that has become both loved and reviled, this is a bright, fresh , and elegant!
Day 11: Lentil and Ham Soup: Subtly flavored with cinnamon, bay and thyme, this simple (and very frugal) soup works so well after a day of Holiday indulgence. It’s the dab of yogurt, though, that makes it!
Day 12: Potato Cheese Strata: A welcome change from all the bread based strata, this breakfast bake is based on hash browns, cheese and eggs. Prepared the night before it’s a great dish to pop in the oven.
A few other recipes that are always a hit that use a little ham? Try Tanya’s Famous Hashbrown Omelette, A quiche, like this one from Cook’s Illustrated, a Cuban Sandwich or a Frittata. Of course the very simple Egg in a Mug can always use a little ham. Speaking of and ham and cheese with Eggs? Think Oven Baked Hotel Eggs, especially if you have a crowd in the house.
What are your favorite family recipes for using leftover Ham? You know what I mean, the ones you’re already thinking about as you’re eating your Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter dinner?