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The Washington D.C. ham bone lobby

 
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Joined: 02 May 2007
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Sun Jun 21, 2009 7:47 pm    Post subject: The Washington D.C. ham bone lobby Reply with quote

I'm beginning to think there's a powerful ham lobby in Washington D.C. Every time I find a recipe I like, it calls for a ham bone, smoked knuckles, fatback, pieces of ham, bacon, and ad-infinitum. Where I shop, smoked ham hocks (all bones) cost more than good beef. Why do I need a ham-bone or smoked ham-hocks to make a nice bean soup, for example? The bones I'll be throwing away will cost well more than the beans I'll be eating. A ham bone can't be the only way to flavor dishes, right?
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1635
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 1:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What I want to know is how much you're paying for beef?

Bones are where most of the flavor and protein in a stock come from. There's actually a LOT of good stuff in bones that don't come out until they've been cooked a long time. Smoking or roasting them first gives them a lot of flavor that they can contribute to the stock.

If you're having trouble getting ham bones, try other bones (left over rib bones for example). You can smoke them or roast them first and then use them to form the basis of your dish.
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Joined: 02 May 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 4:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I appreciate your comments, but I was someone would suggest a suitable substitute for a ham-bone or any bone. As for what I pay for beef, let me answer that by telling you what I'd be paying for smoked ham hocks (devoid of any meat) were I brainless, $3.79 per pound!
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1635
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sorry, I'm still not understanding the problem. Don't bones come for "free" when you buy a bone in roast or a bone-in ham? If you don't normally eat roasts or hams, then I suggested the bones from ribs (like a rack) or chops. If you don't eat pork normally, then ask friends who do to save up bones for you? If you don't eat pork at all... then substitute with beef bones - beef ribs, beef shanks, etc. If you don't want to use bones, well - I'll have to think about it some more - bones are a pretty fundamental ingredient. Does oxtail count? You can try using oxtail - there's a lot of gelatin, flavor, and good stuff there (but technically it's a bunch of bones) and you get some good meat. Of course you'll need to either roast them or smoke them to bring up the flavor a bit since the recipe called for smoked ham hocks or a ham bone.

If your store is charging too much for bones, then find another store. There's a wide variation on how much stores will charge for bones. If a place has a butcher counter but no bones, you can ask them how much bones would cost. Sometimes you get lucky and they'll given them to you for free or charge a nominal fee. This generally happens in local groceries with butcher counters vs. the big national chains which already have prices on every possible cut they could possibly sell.

Something to keep in mind when baking beans or making a bean soup - your beans (unless you start using specialty beans) are going to be the cheapest of your ingredients. A can of broth probably costs more than the beans. If you want it to taste good, you're going to have to invest in those other ingredients (fatback, bones, etc.). In the old days, every ingredient of a beans dish was cheap (borderline free) since they were mostly leftovers that could be transformed into something scrumptious. But from your questions it seems pretty clear you don't normally cook in such a manner as to have chunks of fat or cooked bones lying around left over from an earlier meal. Having to buy those items increases costs dramatically, and that's one of the prices that we pay for having cheap and small cuts of pork or beef available at the butcher (instead of buying entire sides and working with it at home or raising our own livestock).
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Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1026
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

>>>a suitable substitute for a ham-bone or any bone.

something like Bone-in-a-Bottle?

bones, particular if you like to roast them, have no substitute I am aware of. roasting bones for sauces/glace, etc., is a bit old world but very much a flavor thing.

that is a different from a smoked ham bone in a bean dish. first, "smoked" anything costs - it's a process, packaging and distribution thing.

second, 'comfort food' is slightly in fashion now-a-days so the price of stuff like smoked ham hocks is up. for example, once upon a decade dreary I could get shanks for osso bucco for pennies a pound. not no more! they're not only expensive, you've got to ask the shop to 'hold' them for you or they are sold out . . . .

so back to "how to get a bone" . . .
I've got a really excellent butcher nearby. I shop there 2-3 / wk and I get very good prices on bones. I've noticed that he never mentions the price/cost with other people in the shop . . . sometimes he does not charge me - like if I just bought half dozen Delmonicos,,, the bone gets in the bag free....

if you don't have a local butcher shop, sigh, problem with that approach.

if you can find a local market that packages from primal cuts - they've got bones. ask at the meat counter. in a 'chain' they may have less latitude than an independent shop, but establishing a good consumer relationship with your fish monger and your meat cutter is never a bad thing.

our youngest lives in the big city - she's el stucko - all of her local options are 'what you see (prepacked/wrapped/ontheshelf) is what we got' - so I understand it can easily be an issue. when we drive up to visit her #1 request is "bring a nice chuck roast" - the kid has a plan <g> . . .
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boilerplate



Joined: 02 May 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Had I explained myself properly at the outset I could have spared you the difficulty of trying to explain a problem I never expressed clearly. I'm in the throes of forced bachelorhood. My ex-wife failed to make a man out of me before she left. I had to read the electric stove manual to devise a plan for boiling water at first. Where I shop, you buy what's in the package or eat corn-flakes. Every eligible hunk of meat I looked at would served a football team. I'd hate to think I need to join twenty other wifeless, helpless, nut-cases to buy in bulk and divvy up in the side of beef in a parking field.

I proposed marriage to a nice lady at the meat counter who offered to help me even though the man with her was her husband. She told me that the guy in the bloody apron behind the counter would repackage the meat I selected into a more moveable size. Luckily, the lady found a nice ham steak for me. It had a humongous round bone in the center (the bone was free). That saintly lady even told me how to make the ham edible without ruining it.

I wish to thank you gentlemen for your support, I feel I've made huge progress. After I recover from malnutrition, I'll be back with more weighty questions.
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1635
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Haha, I'm glad you got some assistance at the store. Cooking for one is difficult - I used to invite people over just so I could make what I wanted and not have to eat it for the next two weeks. Expensive (when compared to other one person food alternatives), but in the long run people remember the food and the company (even if they don't reciprocate).

Different stores have different levels of service and it never hurts to ask some one (especially someone with a bloody apron) if they can do something special (cutting a roast in half, trimming excess fat, saving excess fat, cutting bones into shapes that aren't normally sold in the market, etc.). The worst they can do is say "no" (and you're where you were before) and sometimes they say, "sure" and you know where to shop in the future for special requests!
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