Making soup with a ham bone is like winning the frugal lottery. Once you’ve had a lovely meal with the ham, now you get an awesome soup with the leftovers. I got this ham bone courtesy of Michelle’s family. There was lots of meat left on, so the soup was extra meaty and delicious.
I make this soup the stock way, meaning I cook the lentils until tender in lots of water with a carrot, some onion and celery. After an hour of simmering, I discard the veggies that have given up their flavor and add in freshly sautéed vegetables and some seasonings to finish the soup for the last 30 minutes of cooking. This way the final dish doesn’t have tired, mushy vegetables and the soup liquid is rich and delicious.
Adding a splash or two of vinegar at the end brightens the dish immensely. I used Steen’s cane vinegar but red wine vinegar is a very good replacement.
The house smells wonderful after the soup has been simmering for a while and the soup itself tastes even better than it smells. Very much the perfect dish after a damp, cold wintery day of Carnival parades (for a complete schedule of Mardi Gras parades, click HERE).
Ham Bone Lentil Soup
3 slices streaky bacon, chopped fine
1 ham bone or ham hock – the meatier, the better
1 lb dried lentils, rinsed
8 cups water
small onion, quartered
2 stalks celery
1 large bay leaf
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons good quality vinegar either cane or red wine
salt, to taste
In a stock pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon until crisp. Place the ham bone in the pot and brown slightly. Pour in 2 quarts water and the rinsed lentils. Place in the pot the quartered onion and a carrot and two celery stalks broken in half. Add in the bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes or an hour until the lentils are starting to be tender.
Remove the ham bone and let cool slightly before cutting off the meat. Fish out the onion quarters, carrot and celery and discard.
In a skillet, melt the butter and sauté the onions until they are softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Toss in the carrots and celery and sweat for just a minute or two. Stir in the black pepper and thyme. Scrape the contents into the pot with the lentils along with the meat from off the bone. Bring the pot back to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are fully cooked. Stir in the vinegar. Taste for seasoning and add salt as necessary.
Serve with bread (I made cornbread – recipe HERE).