Making ham stock is a great way to use leftover ham bones after a tasty ham dinner. Simply toss the bones and few aromatics like celery, onions and carrots in a large soup pot and let it simmer for a while.
Before you make stock, get as much meat as you can off the bones. I start by slicing as many nice large slices as I can off the ham – like you see on the top left in the photo above. We use these nice slices for sandwiches or leftovers. When I can’t cut any more big slices, I use a small knife and trim off as many little pieces that I can – like you see in the top middle of the photo. We use these little pieces in the final soup that we make. By removing them before you simmer the ham bone, these pieces will remain flavorful and stay nice and tender. Once I’ve finished getting all the meat I can off the bone, I crack the bone at the knuckle, gather my veggies and herbs and get set to make stock as outlined in the recipe below.
How to Make Ham Stock with Leftover Ham Bones & Veggies
How to Make Ham Soup Stock with Leftover Ham Bones and Vegetables
- 1-3 large cooked ham bones & trimmed bits
- 1 large onion roughly chopped
- 2 celery ribs & leaves roughly chopped
- 2 carrots roughly chopped
- any vegetable peelings & ends if available*
- leftover tomato salsa, sauce or juice if available**
- any vegetables hiding in the back of the fridge if available***
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme 1 tsp dried
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves & stems
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 black pepper kernels
- 4-6 cups water just enough to cover everything
- After your ham dinner is finished, slice off as many lovely, large slices as you can from your ham. Save the nice large slices for sandwiches or leftovers. Then use a smaller knife and remove as many little pieces of ham as you can. Store these these smaller pieces in the fridge until your ready to make your final soup. Place any pieces that don't appeal to you into the soup pot. If there are pieces that are just fat, toss them in the garbage as they will leave your stock too fatty and you'll have to skim your stock later.
- Once you've picked off all the good bits from the ham bones, place them in the pot with any of the other trimmings. If you'd like, you can crack or split the bones at the joints if possible to get even greater flavor and to get the most gelatin. It's okay to skip this step and toss in the whole bone as is if you prefer.
- Add vegetables,any leftover sauces, herbs, vinegar and spices.
- Cover with 4 to 6 cups cold water so that everything is covered by no more than one inch of water. Too much water will prevent good flavor from developing.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat immediately to a low simmer. Simmer for 2 hours.
- Remove from heat and carefully remove and discard large pieces of vegetables or bones from the pot. Pour stock through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot or bowl.
- Cool and store in a refrigerator, preferably over night.
- When the stock has cooled, skim off any fat that has collected on the top with a spoon.
- Heat and use your stock as desired. Adjust seasoning accordingly.
- Makes 4-6 cups of stock
**Tomato products will change the overall flavor of your stock, but if you’re planning to make soup with tomato flavoring go for it.
***Avoid using strong tasting vegetables so they don’t overpower the flavor of your stock (beets, broccoli, fennel, asparagus, rutabaga, parsnips, cabbage, cauliflower etc.)
Starchy veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash will make your stock cloudy.
****Make this in a crock pot. Simply toss everything in a crock-pot, turn to low and cook for 8-10 hours.
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
Top 5 Questions About Soup Stock
Here are some frequently asked questions I get about soup stock – regardless of what kind.
1. Why is My Stock is Jiggly?
If your stock turned into a thick jiggly jelly after it cooled, congratulations! You have yourself a rich, flavorful and nutritious stock filled with gelatin – a protein that comes from the bones and connective tissue. It’s highly prized in the soup making world and it’s healthy, so be proud and happy that your stock is jiggly.
When you heat the stock, it will turn liquidy again. You do not need to add water or try to thin it. You’ll just lose flavor if you add water.
If your stock didn’t turn jiggly, that’s okay too, it just means it doesn’t have a lot of gelatin in it. It may be because you had less connective tissue. Nothing to worry about.
2. Should I Add Salt When Making Stock?
You’ll get different answers to this question. Personally, I add a bit of salt while making stock to help draw out the flavor from the meat and bones, but not a lot. At this stage, we’re really just drawing out whatever flavor we can from the veggies and bones, we’ll create additional flavor when we make our final recipe.
3. Why is My Stock Not Very Flavorful?
A common concern that has three answers:
First, don’t expect your soup stock to taste like canned stock or like bouillon cube stock. Commercial products are often high in salt and MSG, things we don’t intentionally don’t include in our homemade stock.
Second, your stock is not soup and isn’t suppose to taste like finished soup. It is just one of several ingredients you use when making soup. You’ll add additional seasoning when you make your final recipe using the stock.
- Make sure you’re letting it simmer long enough so that you’re getting the maximum flavor out of your ingredients. It really does take at least 2 hours.
- Don’t use too much water. It’s tempting to try to make a lot of stock by adding more water, but this will impact the final flavor. If you want more volume, add more veggies and bones. One ham bone from a small ham, will not produce a lot of stock. If you want to make a lot of stock at one time, collect more bones. Ask for some from a butcher shop or start collecting a stash of bones and veggie scraps in your freezer. When you’ve collected a large amount, then follow the recipe above to make a large pot of stock. The general rule of thumb, just cover your ingredients with water.
- Add soy sauce or fish sauce to boost the flavor profile. Just make sure their flavor will go with how you intend to use your stock.
- Reduce your stock by simmering your strained stock for another 1-2 hours. This will evaporate some of the water and leave a more concentrated flavor.
- My recipe calls for a tablespoon of vinegar to help up the flavor. Consider adding more acid to the stock – lemon or lime juice or even red or white wine depending on your final use.
4. Why is My Stock Cloudy?
Stock can get a little cloudy if the bones are boiled too hard or too long. It can also get cloudy if any of the other ingredients included starches – like sauces or starchy vegetables like potatoes.
But don’t let cloudy stock bother you too much. Unless you’re planning to serve a clear broth, does it really matter? If it does, here are some ideas:
- Simmer don’t boil your stock. Boiling will break everything up into tiny bits that are hard to filter out later. A crock pot really helps in ensuring a nice even heat without boiling.
- Skim frequently throughout the simmering stage.
- Strain your stock through several layers of cheese cloth.
- Choose ingredients carefully. Starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes or corn will make your stock cloudy. Tomato products will darken the color.
- Consider clarifying your stock by adding 2 lightly beaten egg whites to the top of your stock and letting them float there while your finished stock simmers for 5 minutes. As the egg white cooks, it will pick up any particles in the stock. I rarely use this technique, because cloudy stock rarely impacts the final recipe.
5. How Long Will My Soup Stock Last
- Keep your stock in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. At that point, use it or freeze it!
- Freeze your stock in commonly used amounts (eg. 1 or 2 cups) for up to 6 months. It will be safe to consume even longer than that, but will start to lose some flavor. Remember to leave at least 1 inch of headspace between the top of the soup and the lid of the container. When it freezes, the stock will expand.
- If you wish, you can safely can your soup stock in a pressure canner as recommended by the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
How to Use Finished Ham Stock?
You can use your ham stock in just about any recipe that calls for soup stock. Naturally, because it will have some ham flavor, it is ideal to use in soup, sauces or dishes that use pork or ham. Use it for ham and bean soup, split pea soup, borscht or this ham and bean soup that I’ll be sharing in the next little while.
For stock made with leftover chicken or turkey bones click here: Chicken Stock
For broth made with raw chicken pieces click here: Chicken Broth from Raw Pieces
For stock made with just vegetables click here: Homemade Vegetable Broth
I’d love to see what you’re making! Take a photo and tag #getgettys so I can see it and like it!
Getty Stewart is a Professional Home Economist, speaker, frequent media guest and writer dedicated to putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of several recipe books on enjoying and preserving fruit, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener. Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this.