I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. I’ve been making broth in my slow cooker all winter long — chicken, turkey & beef. It never really occurred to me to mix my meats until I saw a recipe in Volume 2 of Canal House Cooking using chicken and a ham hock (plus a whole bottle of white wine which was way too much to consider, even for me). More about Canal House at another time but now I want to talk you into trying this extraordinary stock. It’s pure liquid sunshine with a smoky, salty, savory richness that’s perfect just the way it is, straight out of the pot.
Seriously, you can doctor it up in all sorts of ways but for me, this broth is what I’ve been missing. You see, I love salty food. I’d take salty over sweet any day. Sometimes I find myself adding more salt than I know is healthy to most broth. With this broth, the ham hock took care of that for me along with a big dose of smoky goodness and flavor. I didn’t have to add any salt, which may be a first.
If you’re used to making chicken broth the only extra ingredient you’ll need in addition is a ham hock. You can get just about everything at the farmers market — Stokesberry Farm sells bags of chicken backs or bones, both are excellent for soup. Skagit River Ranch has ham hocks. Willie Greens has onions and Nash’s carrots are perfect for this. You can use my recipe for Slow Cooker Broth or your favorite chicken stock recipe and just throw in a ham hock. (If you’re trying to be frugal I have a tip for you. When I buy ham hocks from a butcher, I often get them to cut it in half. A half of a large hock adds plenty of flavor and then you can get two meals for the price of one).
The Canal House recipe adds cooked ricotta ravioli to the broth along with grated parmesan cheese and finely chopped ham taken off the hock once the broth is done. Truthfully, the first night I didn’t have ravioli but had some leftover pasta from the night before. I used up my pasta leftovers and it was delicious. Come to think of it, practically any leftovers (within reason) will make a good soup in a broth like this.
When I tried their ravioli version I added some fresh, tender rapini from Full Circle Farm. Any greens you like will work — spinach and arugula are available now but rapini is my current favorite.
I even tried an Asian version for lunch using a tablespoon of miso, some chopped green onions and baby spinach. Any way you try it, this broth really hits the spot, especially on a cold winter day.
In your comments, several of you mentioned the desire to eat more of what you have on hand, shop at the farmers markets and grow more of your own food. Making a big pot of seasonal soup is a great way to get started on all these goals.