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A little basic information and a dozen ways to make use of those marvelous left overs. I’d like to know what YOU do with your ham left overs – those special comfort food recipes that you can’t wait to make every year. Please feel free to comment, below – I’m always on the look out for new, fresh ideas. (For Turkey left overs, see 12 Days of Turkey.)

6 additional “Days of Ham” labeled and portioned for recipes

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 left overs. 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 to freeze.

Now, on to the best part:  The Left Overs.  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 left overs, 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 left over ham for the freezer? These meals will actually generate left overs 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 left overs, 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

My apologies – I’m in the process of updating this page…

Day 1: 035Classic Deviled Ham: A marvelous use of left over ham, it’s so old-fashioned it has to be “Retro.” If you haven’t had Deviled Ham for a while, it might be time to revisit. The first time I made it, my daughter and a couple of her friends “stole” the food processor bowl with the deviled ham and carried it off to the living room to eat as they watched a movie before I even had a chance to put it in a dish.

Day 2: 037Easy One Dish Ham or Turkey Bake: Another use for Thanksgiving Left Overs. So easy a child or first time cook can make using canned soup, but also had directions for making a home-made sauce if you wish. The topping is a Bisquick fake out that takes seconds in the food processor. Using fresh vegetables improves the quality of this simple dish, but in a pinch, frozen is fine.

Day 3: Hot Broiled Sandwiches: An idea, more than a recipe :052A fun way to take a few left overs from a Thanksgiving Turkey or a Holiday Ham. Raiding your fridge and layering ingredients on a an open faced sandwich, adding favorite condiments and a bit of cheese, then broiling the whole works until hot and bubbling turns a sandwich into a meal. Subway has nothing on these beauties.

hot brownDay 4: Light Hot Browns: Another great way to take advantage of any left over Turkey or Ham, Hot Browns are layered with meat, a little bacon and vegetables, blanketed with a Mornay Cheese Sauce, then broiled to a browned and bubbly perfection. Our favorites are Ham, Tomato and a Swiss Mornay or Turkey, Tomato, Bacon and a Cheddar Mornay. Of course, you’ll want to customize your own favorites.

Day 5: Navy Bean Soup with Bacon070One of the first soups I ever learned how to make, this one is a little more intensely flavored than plain old Ham and Bean or Senate Navy Bean soup. It has long been a family favorite, inexpensive and hearty – another soup I often double and freeze. I can always count on it to warm up anyone who’s been outside playing or shoveling on a miserable winter day.

Day 6: IMG_1137Scalloped Potatoes, Like the Ones your Grandma made!: These REALLY are. This recipe is from my 1950′s era Betty Crocker Cookbook. I’ve found my kids like it best with a little cheese and left over Ham from Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter makes it a main dish hearty enough to warm the coldest souls inside and out.

split peaDay 7: Split Pea Soup – A humble soup with great flavor, Split Pea Soup is under appreciated. It’s like an like an old pair of jeans you throw on for around the house – until you slip them on, you don’t realize how comforting they are. I’ve only ever had one Split Pea to rival this one – at an Eastern European Deli. I think your family will enjoy it as much as ours.

Day 8: Cuban Black Bean Soup with Rice036One of my son’s favorites, this soup is almost addictive. A few touches like a bit of vinegar at the end brightens the soup, and the garnishes of rice and vegetables make it more than a soup. One of our favorite uses of a ham bone, I normally double or even triple and freeze some for another time – it brings a taste of the warm climates to our Minnesota winters.

Day 9: Old-Fashioned Ham Loaf: 114This 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 that keeps you coming back for more. A classic dish, this recipe makes two loaves, one for dinner and one to freeze, but could certainly be halved if one wishes. Left overs are every bit as good as the original.

Elegant Mushroom Lemon Basil Soup with Wild Rice 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 soup, a bit elegant, and is reminiscent of a Greek Soup. Living in Minnesota, I’ve probably have had every version of Wild Rice Soup out there, and this one’s quite different.

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!
Day 12 Potato Cheese Strata- A welcome change from all the bread stratas out there.

What are your favorite family recipes for using left over Ham?  You know what I mean, the ones you’re really thinking about while you’re eating your holiday ham!

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