Good to the Last Drop – Holiday Ham

Ggori gook, Korean oxtail soup, is one of Dad’s and my favorite soups. Not only is ggori gook a food preference that Dad and I share, but the I’ve come up with a philosophy surrounding ggori gook and how it represents a characteristic about both of us. The soup is made from the ox’s tail. If you’ve ever seen an oxtail still attached to its ox, then you know that it is long, hairy, skinny, and does not look like it has any edible meat on it. It’s the tail of an ox, for crying out loud, and even when the tail is on store shelves in neat styrofoam trays and shrinkwrap, i.e. not on the ox, it still looks like it is all bone. Therefore, if you make oxtail soup, you are very resourcefully using up every bit of that animal from tip to tail. If you are eating ggori gook, you are not wasting a thing. I love that, so I eat ggori gook with complete, wild-eyed gusto, knowing I am one hundred and ten percent getting my money’s worth. It would be a much more compelling if ggori gook didn’t actually taste good and our poverty-stricken tasebuds had to suffer for nourishment, but truth be told, oxtails make a pretty damn good soup.

The point is, oxtail soup is the paradigm of parsimony.

Mom and the Twins would probably see this as a flaw and call Dad and me “painfully cheap penny pinchers.” Oh yeah, wastrels? Don’t come crying to us when you’re down to your last three pennies and we have two dollars in the bank, okay? We’ll have two dollars! Dad and I are budget-conscious. We are thrifty. We are wise with our money.

I am highly sensitive to waste. I like getting my money’s worth. I like to squeeze every last drop of value out of everything, which means after roasting a turkey after Thanksgiving, I boil that big shaggy turkey carcass until the bones are well, bone dry and all thats left behind is a gorgeous turkey after-stock (stock made from whatever bones are left after a big meal).

ham with bone
let me get at that bone

And when we have a lean, healthy ham on Christmas day as if baked macaroni and cheese didn’t ooze enough triglycerides and bacon weren’t enough pork, I taste the ham during our meal, but afterwards, tear away at the salty pink flesh, pack it into sensible little single serving size portions for the freezer, then boil down that ham bone to make ham stock. If I could, I’d do something with that barenaked bone, too.

I make after-stock with intentions of using it for something because 1) the stock will taste extraordinarily deep and flavorful and far richer than any canned “broth,” and perhaps even more importantly 2) I can save the thirty-three cents it would cost me to buy those inferior cans of Swanson at the market. (Though I will have to admit here that I have never looked for ham stock, nor have I ever seen it).

The funny thing is, I put the milky white ham stock into the freezer, and I am quite sure that it will stay there for a very long time until I suddenly stumble across it as I’m looking for that “IswearIhadatleasthalfabottleleft” bottle of Stoli, and by the time the giant white, block of ice that is misshapen because the zipper lock gallon-size storage bag took on the shape of the feezer shelf and the containers around it thaws and I realize that it is ham stock from December ‘05, I will wonder whether ham stock actually expires, and will end up pouring the cloudy white ham stock slurpee down the kitchen sink.

Or maybe my ham stock will become split pea soup next week. :)

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