Friday, June 14, 2013

Boiled and Baked Country Ham

Country ham is similar to supermarket ham in the same way that the lowly, (and dysfunctional) Dodge Omni is similar to a Jaguar XKE. Yes, they both come from the ass end of the pig, but the resemblance ends there.
Country ham is dry, dense, salty and flavorful. According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension website at Virginia Tech, curing a country ham is a lengthy process, taking up to 8 months. First, fresh ham (pork legs) are rubbed with a mixture of  8 pounds of salt, 2 pounds of sugar and 2 ounces of saltpeter or sodium nitrate, which the extension tells us is available at drugstores.. It is left to cure in this mixture for one and a half days per pound of ham or, say, 18 days for the average 12 pound ham. Next, the ham has to be soaked, and then stored for 14 days in an environment with a temperature of 50 to 60 degrees. The ham is then smoked for three days and stored for 180 days. So we are talking about substantial investments of time and individual effort.
Nowadays, one may obtain country hams on the Internet, for a (high) price. Or, if you are lucky to live in an area with an old fashioned butcher, or even maybe a retro 30 something old-fashioned butcher, you can buy hams from said old fashioned butcher. I, or rather my husband, who is now retired, bought this ham, which was a butt ham of  five pounds, from Union Meat in Eastern Market on Capitol Hill. It cost about $5. a pound.
This recipe is a day before recipe. I was supposed to have taken care of all the boiling the day before my son and his wife were coming to dinner. Well, I didn't read the recipe, so there I was, at 5:00, ham sitting in its plastic packaging, when the yms were coming at 7:00. So I produced a boiled country ham and left the baking to another day. Frankly, I don;'t think anyone noticed. I plopped everything into the pot, turned on the burner at the back of the stove and went about my business. I didn't have six onions. I put in two. After two hours, I fished it out of the pot and sliced it.
People really liked this. There was nothing left on plates, and son was in a good enough humor afterward to agree to play a 30s era  board game involving pushing tiny wooden cars along dotted lines throughout the British Isles. Daughter-in-law was, as the politest person in the universe, aside from also being really nice,  as always,  agreeable.

Boiled and Baked Country Ham

1 country-style ham (If you are feeding a small group, get a butt ham. If feeding a large group, get a whole ham.)
6 onions
2 cups cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 cup soft bread crumbs
whole cloves

1. Day before, scrub the ham, removing any pepper coating and mold. Place in a large kettle, cover with water and let soak overnight. (I skipped this step. If you buy a ham wrapped in paper, you probably should do it.)
2. Next day, drain ham. Put back in the kettle and cover with fresh water. Add the onions, vinegar, bay leaves and molasses; stir to mix. Bring to a boil and simmer gently fifteen to twenty minutes to the pound.
3. Allow ham to cool in the broth.
4.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
5 Remove skin from ham and score fat in diamond pattern. Combine the sugar, mustard and bread crumbs. Place cloves in centers of diamonds and pat bread crumb mixture over all. Bake twenty minutes, or until brown. My five pound ham would have served 6 people. A twelve pound ham serves 10-15 people.

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