Wednesday, October 26, 2005

My First Country Ham

Pretty, huh?
What you're seeing is a scrambled egg, some slow-cooked stone-ground grits, and a slice of Col. Bill Newsom's ham.
Eggs were good, grits were, well, grits.
But the ham was just freakin' SALTY.
The directions suggest soaking the ham ― if it's over a year old and/or if it has a particularly hard consistency. Since this one didn't have a born-on date, and it felt very tender to the poke of a finger, we skipped the soak.
So after we cleaned our plates (with one scrap saved for experimenting), I looked up country hams on the Internet and learned that they are just freakin' SALTY. The advice for pan-fried slices, in fact, is to slice them awfully thin, because they are just freakin' SALTY.
Even so, I could taste the most marvelous animal flavor in the meat. Not game-like, but very beasty. I usually think of cured meats as a step or two away from the "liveness" of the animal, but this was the most vivid, farmish taste I've ever encountered in meat.
Cranky saved one scrap of ham to soak in water for about an hour, and the flavor was much improved ― and the animal taste remained.
We have about 6½ pounds of it to go, and I'm going to try maybe a preliminary soak, then I'll boil it until the meat pulls away from the bone a bit (which should desalinate it even further), and then finish it off briefly in the oven, maybe with a restrained glaze.
Now the big question is: Should I boil it in ginger ale or Dr Pepper?
Hah! Restraint, my big-ass ham!

20 comments:

Greg said...

People around here don't often talk of grits. Kinda the poor mans polenta.Your picture is making me hungry!
G.

cookiecrumb said...

Greg: Yeah, like "What's a grit?"

Jamie said...

I have had the same freakin' SALTY experience with country ham. If you find out what to boil it in, let me know! I like it when it's done right, but I personally don't know how to do it right.

Jamie said...

P.S. Greg -
Not really the poor man's polenta; more like the miniature person's posole. :-)

That was sort of surreal, wasn't it?

Monkey Gland said...

yeah like "What is a Grit?"...

no really ... "What the hell is a Grit??"

cookiecrumb said...

It's hominy grits, always in the plural. Like Greg says, kinda polenta-like, but white. Very Southern, usually served at breakfast.

Jillie said...

Do you like saurkraut? It is wonderful with ham - you could roast a chunk of it with saurkraut ringing it and covering the edges a bit (add a little water to the roasting pan so it won't stick). The ham flavor (aka fat) seeps into the kraut and makes it doubly delish. Kraut is very healthy for you, so you will get that benefit to counteract the not-so-healthy aspect of all the salt! (Ham)Bon appetit!!!

cookiecrumb said...

Oh, yum. Great idea. I love sauerkraut, and I'm thinking of making some of my own, in fact (though it'll be too late for this ham).
Yeah, with this amount of ham for two people, we'll be wanting to vary the flavors.
Thanks.

Sam said...

when i was a kid we were poor and ate awful food. My mum used to serve up "gammon steaks" quite regularly. Thick round pink disks of salty cooked horrendous ham. Ugh. I hated them. And I christened them "Salt Lumps". If we were really, really, really lucky, some weeks we would get a circle of tinned pineapple on top to help then taste a tad less disgusting.

cookiecrumb said...

Oh, that looks like it came out of a can. The ham, I mean, as well as the pineapple. (At least your mum let you have a glass of beer with it!)
Aren't you glad you live in the US now?

Everybody: I've decided to boil the ham in ginger ale. I'm going to skip Alton Brown's suggestion of a drizzle of sweet pickle juice, though.

Sam said...

they weren't in a can. they were vacuum packed in the cold cabinet at the supermarket. Yes, of course, the Brits are weaned on Beer. Better than grits, huh!


more gammon pineapple pictures.

cookiecrumb said...

Better than grits, maybe, but who says you can't have both?
Yeah, I can envision the vacuum-packed gnarly gnob of gnammon.
Well, you're getting even for it, aren't you, after all these years?
And your mum not only visits your blog, she leaves comments.
[Stifles a boo-hoo.]

Anonymous said...

country ham sounds innocent and sweet but is perhaps the saItiest thing on earth,,,,

then add red eye gravy

Jillie said...

Found this pic of what looks to be the most unappetizing packaging of ham. Maybe it should be called "S-ham"? On the level of gammon, looks like to me, Sixy Beast. Sorry if anyone loses their appetite! (As if THAT could happen with we chowhounds!) http://www.jasonmulgrew.com/content/yearone.php?pic=5

cookiecrumb said...

Jillie: 1) -- Oorff! Urgh.
2) We baked the ham with sauerkraut, as you suggested, and it was SMASHING. Only problem was we didn't have enough sauerkraut! I'll write about it soon.

cookiecrumb said...

Sam: Courtesy of Biggles: gammon.

KathyF said...

We were served this country ham at the in-laws' in Tennessee, and I found it revolting. What was worse was the green beans they cooked for a couple of days with the ham fat, and some vinegar I guess to keep them from poisoning anyone.

Maybe it's the moonshine, that pickled their tastebuds.

Mind you, I love grits however.

Tom said...

Country ham is cured using salt, so it tastes salty. It's not a defect, any more than cheese tasting cheesy. You can reduce the salt content of the meat by slicing it paper thin, or by simmering thicker slices in water. But you have to dump the water and repeat a couple times. You don't need to boil it. The idea is to get the salt out by dissolving it in the water. If you want ham that does not taste salty, don't buy country ham, buy a "city" or pagan ham. These are usually not cured at all, so they are perishible and have to be shipped overnight or next day.

chefdaniel said...

I used to have a little place in Mill Valley named "Truffles". I am now living in the deep south and would rather be here than there. Anyway, any soft drink will help the flavor of the ham, just use a lot of it and change often. I use Mountain Dew mixed with equal amounts of water. Cold soak for 3-4 days depending on thickness of slices. Drain, rinse, pat dry and fry in a cast iron skillet without any fat. Low and slow and turn often. Deglaze skillet with black coffee for red eye gravy.

cookiecrumb said...

Daniel: It's good to get your endorsement of the soda cooking tip.
I hope you are loving your Southern experiment. Thanks again.