the ham in a slow cooker, and here, adding brown sugar
to it, makes leftover ham the best part of Easter.
practical and hungry, a duo that makes leftovers the best
part of any holiday meal. That’s as true for the Easter
ham as with any other platter of protein at a family
before the leftovers, of course, comes the ham in all its
glory, tender slices gleaming as it’s served on what we
hope will be a warm, sunny day.
years, my single oven was stuffed with the foods of the
holiday as I tried to make all the dishes of dinner finish
at the same time, sometimes "borrowing" the oven
of a neighbor who was out of town to allow for more space.
discovered a mighty secret that has changed my ham prep
forever: I cook it in the slow cooker, which frees up the
oven for the egg dishes, roasted asparagus or whatever else
grabs my fancy as cook.
an embarrassingly easy way to cook the main course for a
family gathering. First I sprinkle brown sugar in the bottom
of a 5-quart slow cooker. Then I add a half ham, up to 10
pounds in size, which sometimes requires a bit of cutting to
fit it comfortably into the appliance — no squeezing
allowed (food in there needs space). More brown sugar lands
on top of the ham before the slow cooker is covered and
switched to "on." Three hours later — or six to
eight, depending on the temperature — and the meal is
ready while the oven is free for other foods.
late than never, but I could have used that discovery
let’s move on to the close of the meal, when the ham bone
is lying on the cutting board, a bit bereft and ravaged.
(You do buy ham with the bone-in, right? Because that’s
where all the flavor comes from, as any butcher will tell
need to wait until your company has left before you start
making the stock. I never do. The process is as natural and
efficient for me as putting away leftovers.
few quick moves, I cut off any significant chunks of ham and
refrigerate them to use later to finish the soup. Then I
heft that ham bone into my biggest stock pot, fill it with
water and bring it to a simmer.
can excuse yourself gracefully from your company, you can
add the rest of the ingredients that will make up the stock
— carrots and celery cut in chunks, with some celery
leaves to throw in (really, for this soup, try to buy celery
with leaves as it adds so much flavor to the soup), an onion
that’s been quartered, a few peppercorns and a couple of
bay leaves. You can do all this in less than 10 minutes. But
if you can’t leave your guests alone, add the vegetables
as soon as they leave.
the soup simmer for up to two hours — long enough to
squeeze every bit of flavor out of the ingredients, but not
so much that you simmer away the liquid (add more water if
the level drops too low).
that’s it for making stock. Almost as easy — and
painless — as cooking the ham itself.
step is to defat the stock. I do this by refrigerating the
hot stock until it has cooled and the fat has risen to the
top and solidified. Letting it cool overnight works best for
me, but you can do this however you see fit.
reach for the vegetables again when we need to finish the
soup — for me that’s the next day. I turn to the medley
of vegetables called mirepoix — carrots, celery and onion
— which will be diced and sautéed in a little olive oil
before being added to the stock to cook further. Split peas
will be tossed in at this point, either the green or yellow
variety (my preference is for yellow, which is a bit milder
in flavor). Simmer them in the stock for half an hour, or
until the peas are tender. At that point, the leftover ham,
cut into bite-size chunks, is added and heated through.
Purée the soup or not, as you wish.
another meal is ready, whether or not there’s a crowd at
my kind of cooking.
split peas come in either yellow or green. The yellow ones
are milder in flavor, though sometimes hard to find; the
green taste, well, greener. Either works well. Check through
the split peas and rinse them before adding to the soup.
When you’re dicing the vegetables for the soup (which is
different from when you are cutting them up for the stock),
make sure that all of the vegetables are cut in the same
size. My preference is for them to be diced very small, but
if you like larger chunks in your soup, by all means cut
them that way. The bigger the pieces of vegetables are, the
longer it will take for them to soften. This is a versatile
recipe, so if you prefer more or fewer vegetables in the
soup, add them accordingly. You’re the cook!
carrots, cut in chunks
3 or 4
ribs of celery, with leaves, cut in several pieces
large onion, cut in quarters
1 to 2
large onion, diced
of celery, diced
tablespoon olive oil
(16-ounce) bag split peas (also see variation), picked over
chopped or diced ham
large pot with 20 cups water and add the ham bone, carrot
chunks, celery and onion. Add the peppercorns and bay
leaves. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Simmer,
uncovered, for at least an hour and up to 2 hours, watching
the level of water, adding more water if the level drops too
much. (The liquid will reduce by about half if you simmer it
for 2 hours.)
the soup pot from the heat and carefully strain the solid
ingredients, discarding them. Refrigerate the stock to cool.
(To protect the refrigerator shelf, I always put a potholder
under the bowl when I put the hot liquid into the cold
next day (or once the stock is cool), skim off the fat that
has solidified on top of the soup and discard it. Begin to
warm the stock over medium heat.
sauté the diced carrots, onion and celery in oil for 5
minutes, until slightly softened. Add the cooked vegetables
to the stock, along with the split peas, and bring the
mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the soup
for about 35 minutes, or until the peas are soft. Add the
ham in the last 10 minutes or so.
prefer the soup puréed, use a blender to purée it (if
using a counter blender, do a few cups at a time). If you
would like a little texture to the soup, skip that step.
Instead of split peas, use beans (cooked Great Northern or
pintos are good), or add diced potatoes and cooked bacon,
along with some greens and the usual carrot-celery-onion
medley, to the stock. Or use sweet potatoes with some greens
in the stock. You also could make the soup with water,
chicken or vegetable broth rather than the ham stock.
Lee Svitak Dean.
space in your oven for many dishes to cook? Prepare a ham in
a slow cooker with lots of brown sugar. (A 5-quart slow
cooker can hold up to a 10-pound ham. Do not let the ham
touch the top of the cooker; cut the ham to fit the cooker,
if necessary.) You won’t need to add any water to the slow
cooker because ham contains a significant amount of water.
Only have ham slices? The brown sugar method also works if
you’re cooking a few slices on top of the stove in a
sugar (for an 8-pound ham, use about 2 cups)
(chunk or slices)
slow cooker or skillet, sprinkle half the brown sugar. Place
ham, flat side down, on sugar and sprinkle remaining brown
sugar on top.
slow cooker, heat on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for
about 3 hours. In a skillet, cook until meat is thoroughly
heated through and sugar has melted and caramelized on meat.
Lee Svitak Dean.