Winter in our home meant soup at least a couple of times a week when I was growing up. One of our favorites was boiled dinner. While many boiled dinner recipes call for serving the meat and vegetables on a platter and saving the broth to make a soup later, our boiled dinner was the soup.
My mother’s recipe for boiled dinner started with a meaty ham bone or a large smoked pork hock. Usually she used the bone from a picnic ham, since she liked the economy of buying a picnic ham, roasting it for dinner and having leftover ham to slice for breakfast and sandwiches. She usually saved the skin from the ham and put it into the soup pot along with the bone to enrich the broth.
After breakfast she would put the ham bone in the pot, cover it with water and bring it to boiling, then move it off to the back corner of the stove to simmer until she had time to add the vegetables later in the day.
My sister Patsy theorizes that the reason mom’s boiled dinner always tasted so good was the long slow simmering it received on the back of the wood stove in winter. And when supper time arrived, there was fresh bread with sliced ham or summer sausage for sandwiches.
Like most soup recipes, boiled dinner can be made with many variations, but here is a good way to start.
A meaty ham bone or smoked pork hock
3 or 4 quarts water
3 stalks celery
1 medium onion (2 – 3 inches in diameter)
3 medium potatoes
1 small cabbage (4 – 5 inches in diameter) or half of a larger cabbage
Salt and pepper to taste
Put the ham bone or hock in a soup pot or Dutch oven and cover it with water. Bring it to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for at least 2 hours. Clean and chop the celery, carrots and onion into half inch pieces. Peel the potatoes and cut into inch cubes. Add these vegetables and simmer for an hour. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning.
Remove the ham bone from the pot. Let it cool until it is easy to cut off the meat and return the meat to the pot. Wash the cabbage, removing any damaged outer leaves, and cut it into eighths. Add the cabbage to the pot about 20 minutes before serving and simmer until tender but not mushy.
Wonderful with a green salad and fresh bread for sandwiches.
NOTES: You can replace the ham bone or hock with 2 cups chopped ham and three bouillon cubes. I use two chicken cubes and one beef cube when I do this and add three or four whole cloves. You can also use two smoked turkey drumsticks.