I scoffed at Aki's commitment to saving the ham bone. "Who saves ham bones anymore, and what are you going to do with it anyway?"
"I'm going to make split pea and ham soup" she replied, as if I should have known.
I countered by stating that "No one likes split pea and ham soup anymore, it is old. Fresh pea soup is the way to go."
She quickly pointed out that I like to use frozen peas in my pea soup, so who was I to stick my nose up at dried peas...whoops!
Aki set about carving the last of the meat off the ham bone, attempting to leave generous scraps to flavor the soup. Meanwhile I stood by her side, encouraging her to get as much of the meat off the bone as possible because I had big plans for some grilled cheese and ham sandwiches. Her response is better left unwritten, with a young daughter who may go back and read this.
When Aki had sliced up the majority of the ham and clearly had enjoyed enough of my banter, she started the soup process, which involved the archaic method of simmering the overly meaty ham bone in water with bay leaves and parsley for three hours. I pointed out that a pressure cooker would get the job done in a third of the time. I tried to convince her of the flaws in her cooking process and her stare was sharper than the Japanese knife she used to cut her vegetabes. I wisely moved on to other occupations and Aki continued to ignore my huffing and jaded looks, skimming the pot as fat and foam rose to the surface.
When the broth was fragrant and the meat was falling off the bone, she turned off the flame and let the bone rest. A bone has to rest, as though it was doing all sort of strenuous stuff in the pot. Yes, of course I was compelled to share that thought as well. When the bone was done resting, Aki removed it from the broth and placed it on a plate. Once again I questioned her actions. She responded as calmly as though I had not harassed her through the entire process, "I am going to shred it and fold it back into the finished soup." I thought she must be nuts because we all know, the meat left on the bone after making a stock or broth is absolutely useless.
This theory did not stop me from oh so casually walking by the plate and nicking a piece of meat. It was good, the salinity of the ham had mellowed and the meat was meltingly tender. I casually feigned interest in doing the dishes, since the sink is close to where the tired bone was resting, and I nicked another piece and then another and then I was caught. Aki innocently asked what I was doing. Well of course I was just testing the meat. She quizzically asked.."And?" I was forced to admit that it was some of the tastiest meat I had eaten in a long time. Tender, well balanced, rich, and mellow. If Aki had not intervened we might be writing about the cleanest ham bone I have ever seen. Thankfully she was able to rescue the rest of the meat for her split pea and ham soup. I am now extremely interested in what we can do with the meat left on the bones, particularly from cured meats. Sure we can make great broths, though I do believe the best meat is on the bone and it should definitely be utilized.