Ham is a favorite at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, as well as other big family dinners. When the feast is done, don't toss the ham bone or give it to the dog (experts say that's not safe). Instead, freeze the ham bone so you can use it later to add flavor to a soup or make homemade ham broth or stock.
A ham bone will keep in the freezer for at least a few months. That buys you some time to make full use of it and you have a few days to properly prepare it for long-term storage.
Keep the Ham Refrigerated
It's important that you keep any leftover ham refrigerated at all times. If you don't have the time to cut up the ham and separate the bone right away, place it in the refrigerator while you're cleaning up after dinner. The cooked ham will keep safely for three to four days in a sealed container, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's guidelines for meat leftovers.
Within those few days, cut the remaining ham from the bone. Cook with it or freeze the ham separately for later use. Don't worry if you aren't able to get all the ham off the bone because it will add flavor to your soup stock. If you're not going to make use of the bone immediately, freeze it.
How to Freeze a Ham Bone
Place the ham bone in a freezer bag and make sure the top is well-sealed. It's best to use a vacuum bag to get all the air out and ensure freshness. If you don't have that option, remove as much air as possible from the bag. Check to make sure the bag isn't punctured by any of the sharp edges remaining on the bone.
Label the package with the contents and date. This takes the guesswork out of what's inside and whether it's been in the freezer for months or years. Place the ham bone in the freezer with enough space around it to ensure it freezes quickly.
For best results, try to use your frozen ham bone within three months. There may be some loss of flavor if you keep it longer, and any bits of meat and cartilage remaining on it may get freezer burn or dry out.
How To Use Your Ham Bone
Ham bones are packed with so much rich, flavor. Here are 6 recipes to try.
Split Pea Soup
Ham and Bean Soup
Red Beans & Rice
Ham Stock - when in doubt, simmer the leftover bone into a rich and smoky ham stock. It's the same process as making chicken stock. Just simmer the bone with any carrots, celery, and onion until the broth is nice and flavorful.