Hearty Hambone Soup

Advententures in Amateur Pig Farming

Needing to make some room in one of our chest freezers over the weekend, I decided to cook up one of the space-hogging cured hams for a girl’s night over at my friend Heather’s… This brought back some memories of pig-raising with my boys over the past few summers.

A few Junes back, I was looking to distract the boys from the fact that their dad had just left for his four-month salmon seining season in Kodiak. A short road trip to pick up the “adorable little piglet” we would be raising that summer seemed like just the thing.

In Homer, we order our piglets through a feed store in Kenai, about an hour-and-a-half drive from our house. Since our truck is old and gets terrible gas mileage, I decided it would be a great idea to pick up the piglet in the Subaru. After all, the kennel fit in the back of my car pretty well, and our 70-lb Chesapeake fit in the kennel just fine. A little 45-lb piglet would snuggle right in and be perfectly fine on our 81-mile drive home. Right?

Fact: Pigs are not used to kennels like Chesapeakes.

Fact: Pigs can be very vocal when they are in restrictive and unfamiliar situations.

Fact: Little boys do not like loud pigs.

After a delightful frolic on the trails behind the Kenai Frisbee Golf Course and a nice lunch out, we arrived at the feed store that sunny afternoon. We checked in at the front counter, procured the tiny chicks we were picking up for a friend, and then drove around to the horse trailer to load up our piglet.

It was 100 lbs.

Not only did we have to herd it into the kennel, but it also took three people to shove the kennel back into my car. And yes, the pig pounded against the metal grates with the full force of his weight throughout the entire ordeal! That banging and clanging, mixed with vicious and downright scary grunting noises, continued for all 81 miles.

At a recent trip to the Oregon Zoo, I learned that the T-Rex vocals in movies like Jurassic Park are done by elephants; I am here to tell you that they could also be performed by a 100-lb piglet stuck in a kennel in the back of a Subaru. Poor Wylder, then just two-years-old, had been strapped in his car seat when we loaded the pig. Since he didn’t actually see the pig being put into the kennel, he was beyond sure that it was a real, live tyrannosaurus threatening to break through that metal grate at any minute. His hysterical crying was broken only by shrieks of “Dino! Dino!” the entire way back, and he squeezed my right hand (I had no choice but to drive one-handed) so tight that by an hour into the trip home I had completely lost circulation to my index finger.

Oh, and did I mention that pigs poop when locked up in restrictive and unfamiliar situating with crying two-year-olds? Yes, yes they do. And it smells fantastic.

Needless to say, our day did not conclude with sunset piglet snuggles in our backyard like I had imagined. But I’m pretty sure I did managed to distract the boys from their dad’s departure for the summer... And that cured ham was pretty good.

Hearty Hambone Soup

If you’re like us and have recently roasted a big ham, you're probably looking for leftover recipes. Hambone soup is an easy way to not only use up some of that meat, but also take advantage of the all the super nutrients in the hambone.

Bone broth has a host of health benefits, including:

Boosting your immune system with its high concentration of minerals;

Building up your bone strength through the phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium it contains;

Protecting your joints with the glucosamine found in the bones;

Preventing you from getting/healing leaky gut syndrome through the gelatin found in knuckles, feet, and other joints;

Helping you sleep better due to the glycine in the bones;

And making you look younger (thank you collagen).

If you haven't roasted a ham recently, but would still like to try this great soup, visit your local butcher and ask for a hambone or other marrow bone. Roast the bones first in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes to improve the flavor. Of course, you can make this nutritious soup with any type of animal bone, even a chicken carcus.

Ingredients:

2 lb. meaty hambone

1 lb. dried navy beans, kidney beans, or soup mix

1.5-2 quarts water

2 T. apple cider vinegar

1 T. chopped garlic

2 bay leaves

Salt, pepper, and smoked chipotle chili powder to taste

Veggies (add, subtract, substitute as you like):

1 medium onion

5 celery stalks

2 cups green cabbage

4 medium carrots

1 green pepper

3 fresh tomatoes or 10 oz. canned

½ cup peas and/or corn

2 cups chopped kale

Directions:

To make the broth, start by placing the hambone – with a healthy amount of meat still on it – into a croc pot or large pot. Cover with water, add the vinegar, and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes. The acid helps make the nutrients more available. Next, bring to a boil and leave to simmer on low for as much time as you have (6-24 hours). The longer it boils, the more nutrients will seep out, and the better the flavor will be.

While the hambone is boiling, soak the beans in a bowl on the counter.

When there are about 3 hours left on the boil, add the soaked beans, bay leaves, garlic, and the veggies to the stock – onions, cabbage, celery, carrots, tomatoes. If you like potatoes, green peppers, peas or corn, add those, too.

Season it to your taste with salt, pepper, and smoked chili powder (smoked chipotle is awesome). You really can’t go wrong.

Cook that down until the beans are done, then remove the hambone.

I like to add a little kale at the very end to give it a fresh crunch and some color.

You will probably have a pretty large pot of soup on your stove, so if you’re not up for endless leftovers, freeze it in pint or quart-size jars or Ziploc bags; or process it in your pressure canner for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on canning soup!

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