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Vegetable soup with ham bone + cornbread = delicious

After Thanksgiving, we read a lot (and talk a lot) about the leftover turkey meat and bones. Last week we wrote about Turkey Carcass Soup, and mine turned out to be quite good, and perfect for a family member who was ailing. Just behind that turkey carcass in the refrigerator, sat a large ham bone with plenty of meat attached, but not enough for sandwiches. I decided to make some vegetable soup. Those who have been cooking for years know that, although recipes do exist, most vegetable soups are made from what might be available, with the help of a few things from the store. No two soups have ever been exactly alike.
So I decided I would make a large pot, part to share with family and part to share at an Advent supper on Wednesday night. My ham had been a lovely spiral-cut one, with sauce, so the first thing I did was trim away all the caramelized coating that remained. Then I boiled the ham bone in two quarts of water to which I had added chopped onion and celery. I cooked the ham for about an hour and a half, then strained the stock into another pot. I removed all the lean ham from the bone, cut it in small pieces and set aside.  To the stock I then added two cups of turkey stock I had saved (from which the fat had been removed), two beef bouillon cubes (this broth did not discriminate against any meat flavor), brought it to a boil, added the chopped ham and the following vegetables, most of which I had on hand:

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
Three small white potatoes, diced
Two cups frozen small butter beans
Two cups frozen whole kernel corn
Two cups frozen chopped okra
½ cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced onion
¼ cup barley
¼ cup white rice
Salt, pepper and two bay leaves
(Some folks add English peas and/or string beans: I prefer neither in vegetable soup.)

I cooked this, on low heat, for about an hour. The result was very good vegetable soup.  To accompany this, there’s nothing better than cornbread, and the recipe that I use for making dressing at Thanksgiving is as good as any I’ve tried. This was printed in November 2015, but is offered again, since most of us don’t save the recipes we really need!

Cornbread
½ cup butter, placed in 13 x 9 pan in 425-degree F. oven for a few minutes
3 cups self-rising white cornmeal mix
1 tablespoon sugar (the purists among us can skip this)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
3 cups buttermilk (this is what makes it so good)
Stir together cornmeal and flour, whisk in eggs and buttermilk. Add hot butter, and stir until blended. Pour batter into pan and bake at 425 degrees F. for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown on top. (Instead of a 13 x 9 pan, I use two iron skillets — a large and a small one — because I find that iron skillets make the best cornbread.)

Hearty vegetable soup with cornbread is an enjoyable alternative to all the heavy foods we have enjoyed — and will continue to enjoy — throughout the holiday season. So check out the refrigerator and pantry. The ingredients are probably already there, waiting to become soup. You can make it happen.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net