Saturday, March 2, 2013

Winter Veggie Soup

So, most people I know are living in parts of the world where Winter still has them clutched in his icy fingers. That makes me want to cook up something hot and comforting for the family. Recently I came up with this recipe for a soup made with hearty winter vegetables, using a smoky ham stock as the base. The result was quite tasty and I named it Winter Veggie Soup.

Now, the first time I made this, I had taken the gooey drippings from the pan of a baked ham I had made, and froze them just for the purpose of flavoring a soup. I used that lovely little mess of intense flavor and the soup was a hit. The next time I made it, I didn’t have my special baked ham drippings waiting in the freezer for me, so I had to go another route if this soup was going to pass the taste test of my family.

Enter…the ham hock. Only God knows what a ham hock truly is, but all I know is that ham hocks are a suitable stand-in for a ham bone, for flavoring, and therefore I will use them. Now, lest you think I have delusions about ham hocks being the sole flavor and meat source for a soup, rest assured I do not. Trust me, you’re not going to get more than about two tablespoons of meat off of 3 of them combined. So, if meat is important to you, chop up a couple cups of cooked ham and throw that in.

So, now that we know where we stand on the ham hock issue, let’s get cooking! Take said ham hocks and place them in 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to simmer for an hour. When done, you’ll take out the ham hocks and place on a plate to cool.

Meanwhile, set to chopping the vegetables. Dice the sweet onions and slice the celery stalks. Dice the turnip, and peel and slice the carrots into rounds.

Add the onions, celery, and turnip to the ham stock and bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer gently. After about 30 minutes, add the carrot rounds.

Cube the potatoes, rinse them off, and boil until just tender. When the turnip and carrots are tender, add the cubed potatoes, and the ham if you desire it.

Now, if you have no succulent and flavorful drippings from a ham dinner to add to your stock, you’ll need a little help. The ham hocks have given your soup a little flavoring, but not enough. This is where bullion comes in. I use moist Berkley & Jensen (BJ’s Wholesale Club) bullions, or, if I need it, a product called Better Than Bullion; a moist flavorful bullion "spread" in a jar.

For a meat that is neither chicken nor beef, we must tread carefully. Through my years of cooking and experimenting, I’ve come up with a satisfactory combination for pork or ham that imparts essential flavor to the dish, and anyone who eats at your table will believe that you merely work miracles. ;)

Add 2 cubes of a BJ’s chicken bullion, or the equivalent of another brand, and 1 cube of  a BJ’s beef bullion, or the equivalent of another brand. Each BJ’s bullion is worth 2 standard grocery store bullion cubes. Stir well until dissolved. Simmer for a few minutes, and taste, adding 1 tsp. black pepper. Serve with some soft homemade dinner rolls or, for a quick accompaniment, some French bread from a local store. Ham Fat Rolls go wonderfully with this wintry soup. Enjoy! ~TMMF

Winter Veggie Soup
     (serves 8)

1 package ham hocks, OR 1/2-1 c. pan
   drippings from a baked ham
8 c. water
1 medium Vidalia onion
2 stalks celery
4-5 large carrots
1 medium turnip
2 medium potatoes
2 cubes BJ's chicken bullion, or the equivalent of another brand
1 cube BJ's beef bullion or the equivalent of another


  1. Valerie....I use Better Than Bullion ham base for my pea soup if I don't have a ham bone.....It does a good job of impersonating a ham bone!! (Of course a meaty bone is better because we like ham meat in our pea soup, but in a pinch......ham base!!!)

  2. Yes! Definitely! :) I used to buy it up north, but have been unable to find it down here. :(