Soup for the Soul: Ham & Whitefish Soup

During holiday debates about featured proteins, I’ve always been open minded – as long as it wasn’t ham. Recently at a food-tasting of Case Country Farm meats at the Marquette Food Co-op, I sampled a piece in apprehension and was instantly hooked as it melted in my mouth. I purchased a ham and was determined to prepare it in a succulent way. After a bit of research, it seemed that boiled ham was the easiest way for me to go.

I wasn’t trying specifically to make an all-local recipe, but was pleased to find my way to this delicious end. I gathered my ingredients together and let them tell me what they wanted to become. Here is my creation – enjoy and adjust as your heart desires:


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All to Taste

  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • Chili Oil
  • Paprika 


  1. Place a large soup pot on the stove and add the lard or oil and turn heat to medium high. While it’s heating up, peel and slice your onions and garlic. First, add the onions and cook for 5-7 minutes. Turn heat to medium low and add garlic. Continue to sauté for 3-5 minutes. Then, add the thawed ham to the pot and add water until the ham is covered. Add dried sage to the water and change heat to accomplish a steady simmer. 
  2. General rule is to boil a ham 20 minutes per pound – mine was about five so I did about 90 minutes. In respect to food safety, check the ham with a thermometer to be sure it has reached an internal temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit. Take time now and then to skim the surface of the pot to remove impurities, since we will be using this broth as a base for our soup. 
  3. While your ham is boiling, wash and quarter the local potatoes. Cut into 1-1.5 inch size so the potato can be cooked soft but still maintain some integrity. 
  4. Remove your ham and set it aside to cool down. Be thoughtful to check your broth to make sure you didn’t lose a piece of the product that may feel unappealing – but if you are like me, those fatty pieces are the best part. 
  5. FAT LAYER. Depending on your ham, there will be a layer of fat that covers the top of your soup. Use a ladle to slowly remove this – though I suggest leaving some fat in the soup and reserving whatever you ladle off to braise or roasted other proteins in. 
  6. Add your potatoes to the broth and increase the heat to a steady boil. Depending on the potatoes’ size, they should take about 20 minutes or so, but I recommend just start checking them after the 15 minute mark until you reach your personal doneness preference. 
  7. Lower the temperature to medium low and add the skinned whitefish fillets and prepared black beans. Add heavy cream and let slowly simmer for 20-25 minutes. 
  8. Turn off the heat and stir the soup to help it cool. Add salt, pepper, paprika and chili oil to taste. 

Alex Palzewicz is the Upper Peninsula Local Food Coordinator and is now a converted lover of local ham. 

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