Spring Ham-bone Soup (A Use-What-You-Have Recipe Idea)

Spring Ham-Bone Soup (in red bowl)

So here’s what I did today, on the first mid-seventies, beautiful, sunny, May, spring day here in New England.

I made soup.

Well, I usually “menu plan” by having two or three recipes planned for the week, featuring either ingredients I just purchased (usually on sale), or meat and other foods I’ve transferred from freezer to refrigerator to thaw. It usually works pretty well, except for once in awhile when my timing is off, and suddenly it seems we have either too many leftovers to eat in time, or too much raw meat to cook in time; “in time” meaning before they spoil and we are forced to throw them out, or eat them and become sick; hasn’t happened yet, thankfully.  I’m sure that a daily menu plan would be best, but for now I don’t have that as a regular part of my routine.

All that was to say that today was my day to make soup with the frozen leftover Easter (and Christmas?) ham and ham bone that was in my freezer, because that’s just how it worked out.

Fortunately, there was still enough cool air coming in my open windows (yay!), to make both cooking and eating this soup still enjoyable. I won’t be planning to make soup in July or August, by the way.

So here’s the deal. Not only did I have a nice ham bone and a good amount of leftover spiral ham to use in the soup, but what I did not have much of was vegetables. My grocery shopping will be happening tomorrow. (Can you see what a great plan I had this time???)

I really didn’t feel like making the traditional split pea soup that can be found on the package of dried split peas (and I’m not even sure if I had those; I didn’t check my basement food storage area).

But never fear, I used what I have (I’m a firm believer in this practice), and if I do say so myself (and I do), I made a pretty tasty and healthy soup!

While I will share roughly what I did and the ingredients I used, this is not a recipe, per se. Rather it is an idea, that you can use to whatever degree you like, using what you have on hand. If you really want to buy, cook and eat a spiral ham, almost run out of both fresh and frozen veggies, and make this exact soup, be my guest…..but that’s not the idea.

Spring Ham-bone Soup cooking


How I Made My Spring Ham-Bone Soup:

First I half-filled my six quart pot (the big one I usually use for soup, unless I’m using the really big 8-qt. one), with cool water. I put in my ham bone and cooked it for a good half hour to an hour.

Sometime within that first half hour or hour (see; I told you it wouldn’t be exact), I added some onion (from my yellow onions which were growing stored downstairs, as well as a few frozen sweet pepper strips from my freezer (frozen from an excess of green and red peppers this past February). I also added just a little celery (since I only had two small stalks left), and three measly carrots, chopped, to the water.

onion growing sprouts

I let all of that cook for probably an hour to two. Meanwhile, I cut up the ham, cut up some more onion and the little bit of celery that I had scrounged, and ran up and down the stairs to work on a load or two of laundry (although you don’t have to do that part when you make this soup).

Over the course of the next hour or so, I strained the cooked veggies out of the broth (I usually run the whole pot of liquid through a strainer, but decided it wasn’t necessary this time), leaving the carrots (since they were still in pretty good shape). Then I added these additional ingredients to the broth, roughly in this order:

  1. frozen cubed butternut squash (from last year’s CSA, but cut up and frozen some time this winter when I discovered a spot forming one squash)
  2. chopped onions (about one med. to large size),
  3. baby carrots (the one type of fresh veggie I had in good supply),
  4. the two small stalks of celery, chopped,
  5. the remainder of my frozen green and red pepper strips (probably about two cups),
  6. some frozen, chopped kale (from last summer’s CSA, I think), and
  7. the cut up ham.

Please note that between adding each (or almost each) ingredient, a little time is needed to let the broth heat up, come to a simmer, and cook a little, depending on the type of ingredient and whether it was frozen or not. Usually about ten minutes works well, but use your discretion.

ham bone soup cooking (with steam) 2016-05-11

Last, but not least, I added some fresh ground pepper, about a teaspoon of granulated garlic (since I am also out of fresh cloves), and a few shakes of nutmeg. Notice I did not add salt (on account of the already-salty ham), and decided that the nutmeg would go along well with the squash.

I think that’s it. It was surprisingly tasty considering I had added no broth or bouillon to the water. The flavor came from the ham and vegetables and my few spices, and I think the butternut squash broke down and added a little texture and sweetness to the broth as well. I may have to add that to my ideas for using up extra squash, and remember this good method for adding sweet flavor and thickening any appropriate soup.

Spring Ham-Bone Soup (close-up)

I hope you enjoyed my little spring soup-making story and that it gives you some ideas to use next time you have a ham bone and maybe not quite enough veggies in your kitchen…..even if it is sunny and warm and heading towards eighty degrees.

Now we have some nice leftovers for lunch this week, and can look forward to grilling those fresh sausages I purchased from a small local store tomorrow.


Have you ever made a variety of soup from a ham bone other than traditional split pea? Have you ever tried to make soup out of whatever ingredients you have on hand (or items gleaned from cleaning out your freezer)? What do you have hanging around in your freezer or fridge right now that could be used to make a good spring soup?





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