Ham juice or Ham broth is the thick soup or stock that is left over after cooking a ham joint. The juice is prepared by simmering the preserved thigh of the hind leg of animals. Usually pork meat is used to make ham joints but beef, mutton and sheep joints are also called as ham joints. As the preservation process of the meat joint will vary, the actual juice from the ham joint will also differ in taste. For example, Chinese Jinhua Ham has a very distinctive taste and it is used to make broths and ham stocks that are used in many Chinese dishes.
History of Ham Juice
Traditionally, cooks used to simmer together large ham joints, ham hocks, ham bones, or left over ham rinds with vegetables to form a thick soup. Cured ham or preserved pork had a rich texture and flavor that produced a very tasty and fragrant broth. The actual broth may have contained range of flavoring ingredients like carrots, onions, peas, potatoes, celery, bay leaves, peppers, and star anise. This liquid was then strained to remove the thick pork fat. Astute cooks used to can the ham broth to preserve the soup. Ham Juice was then used to flavor soups and vegetable dishes.
Culinary Uses of the Ham Juice
Ham broth forms an essential component of several soups and dishes. For example, the rich flavor of preserved pork can be used to make thick pea soups, pot pies, gravies, sauces, bean soups, and vegetable casseroles. A few recipes also used ham juice to cook rice. This lends a very meaty flavor to the dishes.
Popular Ham Juice Recipes
- Julia Child, the famous cook, presented a very popular split pea soup in her THE WAY TO COOK cookbook. The soup was prepared by simmering ham hocks or ham rinds, carrots, onions, celery, and herbs in water. This ham juice was then used to cook the peas. The peas were then roughly pureed in the soup making a thick green soup.
- Beans and pea soups with ham juice are popular too. Any variety of beans like cannelini, peas, and white beans can be cooked with ham juice to make the soup.
Ham Broth Making and Storing Tips
Ham broth is difficult to find as most cooks will prefer to make their own. Different regions will produce different varieties of ham joints which will produce a large range of ham juices. The ham bone has to be simmered in water with the vegetables. The stock is simmered for 8-12 hours and then allowed to cool. Fat is skimmed and removed and the broth is canned with the help of pressure canners. Individual cans have to be labeled with the date of canning.