The Best Bean Soups Begin with Ham Bones

Cooks have long known that the meaty bone from a ham or smoked hock is an amazing source of flavor for split pea and other legume and bean soups. The typical approach for releasing that flavor calls for dropping the hambone or hock into the pot with chopped vegetables, split peas or soaked dried beans, and water, and cooking it all together slowly, greygarious notes on Chowhound. But you can also simmer the bone in water to make a flavorful broth before involving the beans, as in CHOW's White Bean and Ham Soup (pictured).

Making a stock like this whenever you happen to have leftover ham bones and scraps, then freezing for later soup-making sessions is a great way to go, tippau says. Just be careful about seasoning, whichever approach you take: Even the bone of a ham or smoked hock can impart plenty of salt to a broth or soup.

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Photo by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com