This potato soup calls for country ham, but feel free to use leftover smoked ham or deli ham. It's an excellent choice for a fall or winter lunch or dinner. The soup ingredients include leeks, but if you don't have them, go ahead and use about 1/2 cup of sliced green onions or yellow onions.
For a well-balanced meal, add a tossed salad and crusty bread or serve the soup with sandwiches.
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 3 leeks, white only, thinly sliced
- 8 ounces diced country ham* (or smoked ham)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 4 cups diced peeled potatoes
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Optional: 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 cups half-and-half (or whole milk)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (sharp)
- Salt, to taste
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the sliced leeks and country ham to the pan. Saute until the leeks are tender, stirring constantly.
- Add the flour and stir until well blended; continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the chicken broth and cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring frequently.
- Add potatoes; increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer until potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes).
- Add the parsley and chives, if using, along with pepper, to taste.
- Add half-and-half or milk and the shredded cheese; cook until cheese has melted, stirring constantly.
- Taste and add salt, as needed.
What Is Country Ham?
Before the days of refrigeration, it could be difficult to keep meat from quickly spoiling. Curing was the answer, and the basic curing ingredient was salt.
A dry-cured ham is cured with salt and other ingredients and then dried and aged. A wet-cured ham is soaked in salt water or brine, making the curing process faster. Traditionally, country ham is dry-cured, while a wet-cured ham was sometimes called "city ham" or "urban ham." You will, however, sometimes find products labeled "country ham" that have been wet-cured, and recipes for "country ham" that call for a brine. If you want authentic, traditional country ham, look for dry cured.
Dry curing is a simple process of preserving the meat by dehydrating it. The salt and/or sugar dehydrates the pork by removing water from it by a process called "osmosis." In the past, hogs were traditionally butchered in the late fall because of the near-freezing temperatures. The meat was then cured and hung up to dry and then aged through the winter months. Today, hams are usually aged under refrigeration. Smoking is often but not always part of the process.
Dry cured country hams are not fully cooked. Smoking does not cook a ham, so they should always be cooked before eating.
Long-cured hams can have a strong flavor and are quite salty, so many people prefer to soak them in water before cooking to remove some of the saltiness.