For me, there's little better in life than sitting down with loved ones and eating a home-cooked meal; or, if that's not possible, cooking and eating the dishes that evoke memories of family and the time spent with them. Every Sunday I'll publish a post of one of these dishes. The Family Recipe posts will include a variety of classic family favorites and also some others that we have in our regular rotation. I'll share some recipes in their original form, and tweak some for taste or health reasons.
According to rumors I hear each Christmas, some brave people eat turkey or goose for Christmas Day dinner. I really can't imagine dealing with another fowl during the holiday season. Pass!
At my house, we serve ham. This means that one of us (in the past few years, it's been myself or my brother Ben) makes a treacherous journey to our local HoneyBaked Ham. Laugh all you want, but this location is in the heart of one of the major shopping centers in eastern Cobb County, which is rife with incompetent drivers and bloodthirsty shoppers.
Ready to eat and sugary-spicy delicious, HoneyBaked is a perfect solution for our family on Christmas Day. And, of course, there are plenty of leftovers. After we've tired of eating it with other Christmas feast leftovers or in sandwiches, I know it's time to bring out the soup pot for Ham and Bean Soup.
Connoisseurs of this dish know that there are as many recipes for this soup as there are for stuffing. Ours is very simple and was perfected by my grandfather, Russ Britzius. The star of this soup is the broth, and the majority of its flavor comes from the ham bone. If there's ham left, we throw that in too, and Great Northern beans round out the dish. I like to serve this with cornbread muffins and citrus for a fruit.
Ham and Bean Soup
1 ham bone (leave any leftover ham on the bone. We usually end up with 2 cups leftover ham, but you can add more or less)
2 ham hocks
2 cups cubed cooked whole ham (not deli ham)
10 cups water
1 chopped onion
4 cans great Northern beans (or really any similar sized white bean)
Clean the meat and bone of fat.
Place ham bone or hocks in a large soup pot.
Add water. Turn burner to high heat to get the water boiling; once it boils, lower heat until the water is simmering.
Simmer for 2 1/2 - 3 hours, until majority of the ham falls off the bone and is tender. Follow the same cooking time for the hocks.
Take pot off the heat. Take out the bone or hocks. Pull any remaining meat from the bone; place in a bowl and then discard the bone/hocks.
Strain the liquid to discard any remaining pieces of fat.
Place the liquid and meat back into the soup pot. Add the chopped onion, beans. If you've used hocks, go ahead and place your cubed ham in the pot.
Bring the soup to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer and let it go for another hour.
This soup is wonderful served immediately. You can also let it cool, place in air-tight plastic containers, and refrigerate overnight. The next day, any remaining fat will form on the top of the soup; skim off. Note that this broth will turn gelatinous when refrigerated.