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Fill a large pot with 20 cups water and add the ham bone, carrot chunks, celery and onion. Add the peppercorns and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Simmer, uncovered, for at least an hour and up to 2 hours, watching the level of water, adding more water if the level drops too much. (The liquid will reduce by about half if you simmer it for 2 hours.)
Remove the soup pot from the heat and carefully strain the solid ingredients, discarding them. Refrigerate the stock to cool. (To protect the refrigerator shelf, I always put a potholder under the bowl when I put the hot liquid into the cold refrigerator.)
The next day (or once the stock is cool), skim off the fat that has solidified on top of the soup and discard it. Begin to warm the stock over medium heat.
Meanwhile, sauté the diced carrots, onion and celery in oil for 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the cooked vegetables to the stock, along with the split peas, and bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the soup for about 35 minutes, or until the peas are soft. Add the ham in the last 10 minutes or so.
If you prefer the soup puréed, use a blender to purée it (if using a counter blender, do a few cups at a time). If you would like a little texture to the soup, skip that step.
Variation: Instead of split peas, use beans (cooked Great Northern or pintos are good), or add diced potatoes and cooked bacon, along with some greens and the usual carrot-celery-onion medley, to the stock. Or use sweet potatoes with some greens in the stock. You could also make the soup with water, chicken or vegetable broth rather than the ham stock.
Brown Sugar Ham
Note: Need space in your oven for many dishes to cook? Prepare a ham in a slow cooker with lots of brown sugar. (A 5-quart slow cooker can hold up to a 10-pound ham. Do not let the ham touch the top of the cooker; cut the ham to fit the cooker, if necessary.) You won’t need to add any water to the slow cooker because ham contains a significant amount of water. Only have ham slices? The brown sugar method also works if you’re cooking a few slices on top of the stove in a skillet. From Lee Svitak Dean.
• Brown sugar (for an 8-lb. ham, use about 2 c.)
• Ham (chunk or slices)
In a slow cooker or skillet, sprinkle half the brown sugar. Place ham, flat side down, on sugar and sprinkle remaining brown sugar on top.
In a slow cooker, heat on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for about 3 hours. In a skillet, cook until meat is thoroughly heated through and sugar has melted and caramelized on meat.