Long cooking at lower temperatures is a classic method for coaxing out the last bit of savory goodness from a leftover ham bone. The resulting broth, vegetable soup or traditional bean soup benefits from steamy simmering in a slow cooker. Cooking hearty vegetables along with the bone adds depth of flavor and a small dose of nutrition. Keep your soup healthy by reducing the fat content and using a light hand with salt.
Set the slow cooker on the high setting and let it preheat while you prepare the vegetables.
Peel the vegetables and cut them into same-sized pieces. Add the vegetables to the slow cooker. Lay the ham bone on top of the vegetables and cover with warm chicken broth. Add fresh or dried herbs, such as thyme and rosemary, and grind fresh black pepper into the soup.
Put the lid on the slow cooker, reduce the heat to low, and set a timer for 7 hours. Check the soup occasionally and add stock if necessary. Otherwise, avoid opening the lid. When you do, the temperature drops in the slow cooker and the cooking time increases.
After about 7 hours on low, remove the ham bone from the broth and cut the meat off. Discard the bone, fatty pieces and any connective tissue, and return the meat to the soup. Stir the ham into the soup and cook for about another hour or until the vegetables are tender.
Substitute ham hocks for the bone if you don’t have a ham bone. Skim or mop excess fat off the surface of the soup, or make it a day ahead, refrigerate until the fat congeals, then remove the congealed fat and reheat the soup. Add rinsed, dried beans that have been soaked overnight or brought to a boil for 10 minutes at the beginning of the cooking process for a classic ham and bean soup.
Ham is salty; avoid adding salt until the end of the cooking time. It probably won’t be needed. Don’t fill the slow cooker more than 2/3 full.