What to Do with that Ham Hock?

At last month’s CSA pickup, the most discussed item by far was the ham hock – people were either thrilled, or not quite sure what to do with it.

So I asked Ann Hostetler, for a recipe – she’s a ham hock superfan. Last year she purchased half a hog from us, I suspect mostly to get the two hocks. Here’s her all purpose split-pea / bean / lentil recipe in prose form – the quantities are very flexible, but a cup of peas to a quart of water will get you in the ballpark. The picture is of a nearly identical soup from Tom and Cas’s table about a week ago.


Put the ham hock in a deep soup pot and cover with water.  The water should come about an inch over the ham hock.  Simmer the ham hock (bring the water to boil and then turn down to low) for several hours, until the meal is tender (falls from the bone when prodded with a fork).  Remove the meat from the pot and put the bone back n, and add your favorite dried legume–split peas, lentils, navy beans, or a bean soup mix–to the pot.  (The peas or lentils do not need to be soaked, but the navy beans should be pre-soaked overnight before cooking.)  Continue simmering until beans or legumes are tender (about 30 minutes for lentils, or split peas, about 2 hours for navy beans).
When you add the beans to the pot, you can also add a bay leaf, or some peppercorns (tie them up in a little cheesecloth bag if you don’t want to fish them out later).
When the beans are tender, add salt (not before, the salt will affect the bean texture).  You can also add other vegetables at this point–sauteed onions, carrots, and a pinch of thyme for split pea soup; tomatoes, spinach, carrots for lentil soup; onions and/or celery and carrots for white bean soup.  When the vegetables are tender, remove the bone and the bay leaf from the soup pot and add the meat back in.  Taste for seasoning–salt, pepper, herbs.  Add a few spoonfuls of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice for lentil soup.
This soup keeps well for several days and improves its flavor.  Be careful when you reheat it that you don’t burn the bottom.

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