Q: I made a pot of navy bean and ham soup the same way I always do (with a ham bone — an old family recipe), and after cooking, I placed the pot in the refrigerator. When I took it out the next day, it looked like Jell-O. If I reheat it, it looks and tastes fine. What's going on?
Sent by Rich
Editor: That ham bone — or rather, what's still attached to that ham bone — is what's causing the thick layer that looks like Jell-O on top of your soup. As the soup cooks, any of the connective tissue still attached to the ham bone breaks down into gelatin — the same ingredient that gives Jell-O its wiggle. In addition to the gelatin, when whatever fat that's in the soup is chilled, it turns into a solid, adding to the layer you're seeing on top of your soup.
If you reheated your soup and still enjoyed the flavor and texture, don't worry about that layer that forms over the soup. The fat is giving your soup plenty of flavor, and along with the gelatin, it's also making for a pleasantly silky mouthfeel.