HAM STOCK (about 4 quarts)
4 pounds meaty smoked ham hocks
1 medium Spanish onion, quartered
6 small celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 heads garlic, halved horizontally, not peeled
2 fresh bay leaves, or 1 dried
12 black peppercorns
1. Combine all broth ingredients and 4 quarts water in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to low, put the lid on and cook at a nice steady simmer until the meat on the hocks is so tender it is almost falling off the bone, 4 to 5 hours.
2. Carefully remove the hocks and put them in a big bowl. Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve into the bowl, and discard the vegetables and aromatics. Let the hocks cool in the liquid.
3. When the hocks are cool enough to handle, pull off the meat in bite sized chunks. Discard the bones, fat and skin. Keep the stock and meat (moistened with a splash of stock) in separate airtight containers in the fridge for up to 2 days.
NOTE: The ham hocks will leave a fair amount of fat in the stock. After the stock has completely cooled, refrigerate it overnight, covered, and the fat will congeal on the surface so that you can easily spoon it off and discard it. You may freeze the stock for up to a month.
adapted from Epicurious, America’s Best Recipes, July, 2014