Saturday, December 29, 2012

How to Cook a Country Ham

Country ham.  Like, real, salt cured, comes in a bag, country ham.  I think this may be a Southern thang.  Often served with red-eye gravy and grits!  Also a Southern thing.  So, all y'all non-Southerners out there...are about to get a little Southern education.  Yep, ham so salty you need a gallon of sweet tea afterwards, and gravy made with coffee.  You are probably baffled.  About how we feel when someone tries to feed us Cream of Wheat and hot tea :-)  For the record, I actually like Cream of Wheat.  Ixnay on the hot tea however.  Anyway, I've grown up eating country ham.  My great grandparents cured their own many years ago, but I've never actually cooked one.  So, when my husband came home from work the other day with a BIG ol' Smithfield Country Ham...I was clueless.  It was his Christmas present from the big boss, and my husband loves country ham, so I knew I had to figure out how to prepare it.  I, of course, called my mommy for guidance!

Well, turns out, my mom relies on Martha Stewart.  She said she has tried several methods over the years, and this one is her favorite.  She uses the recipe from one of Martha's cookbooks, but pretty much the same one was on-line.  (link below).  Turns out, it was not difficult at all!

Baked Country Ham recipe from my mom and Martha Stewart

1 Country Ham (Martha says 16 lbs., I have no idea what mine weighed.)

Directions

The afternoon before you plan to serve the ham, fill your sink with water. Soak ham 4 to 8 hours to lose some of the saltiness; change the water two or three times if possible. This step is optional, depending on how salty you like your country ham.  I soaked mine for about 4 hours, but my stupid sink kept losing water,  so I don't know how effective it was.  Rinse ham well, and scrape off any mold or green rind. (yes, it may have some mold. This is okay.  Mine however, didn't have any.)

Place ham in a large pan (like you would use to cook a turkey.)  Place about 1 inch of water in pan and wrap top of pan well with aluminum foil. At 7 p.m. the night before you plan to serve the ham, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. (Martha is pretty specific, but I put mine in at 6:30 pm)  Bake for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven, but do not open the door. At 10 P.M. (or 9:30!) turn the oven back on to 500 degrees. Bake the ham for 15 minutes more. Turn off the oven, but do not open the door. Leave the ham in the closed oven overnight.

In the morning, remove ham from the oven, and remove the aluminum foil. Using a very sharp knife, trim the rind and all the fat from the ham. (Get as much rind off as possible, b/c it gets really hard once the ham sits and is hard to cut through).  Serve the ham warm or at room temperature; cut into very thin slices.  

You want to cut it thin, because it is salty!  I bet all of our blood pressures are elevated right now.  Not to mention my rings are tight.  But, it's a once a year thing..so...enjoy!  Country ham and black eyed peas are a New Year's Day tradition around here.  (not at my house, but 'around these parts' in general.  I hate black eyed peas!)



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