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Ham for my Fam

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Well, I just recently broke out of my vegetarianism/veganism due to my travels in China and Europe.

I had never really cooked meat before, and it turns out that I'm quite good at it. I remember loving ham when I was a kid and I want to make it this year for Christmas. What I DON'T want is the prebaked kind with the packet of neon glaze.

I don't think my mom has ever cooked one raw. Do they even sell them raw at the store? How should I prepare it? I love spices, and I love fruit. Any suggestions? I have a bunch of cookbooks, but I wanted to see if anyone had any family recipes or anything, ya know?

Thanks.
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post #2 of 15
There are two broad categories of ham, Harpua. You can buy a fresh ham, which is then cooked as a pork roast most of the time. That's category one.

Category two is the full range of cured hams. They aren't necessarily precooked (although some of them, like the so-called "Polish ham" and "Virginia Boiled Ham" are), but they are cured one way or another.

So that's your first decision: Fresh ham or something like a country ham. Once you made that decision we can guide you through the cooking process.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
I think what I want is country ham.
Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - GM
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Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - GM
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post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Do I need to buy a raw ham and cure it?
Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - GM
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Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - GM
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post #5 of 15
No, you don't need to cure it yourself.

Country hams are available literally everywhere. Even supermarkets carry them. What differentiates them is the specific cure used by the pork purveyor, and whether the process follows the old, slow techniques or the faster methods. Obviously, hams from a specialist are more likely to follow the slow cure methods than are those mass produced for the supermarket trade.

Most country hams use either a straight salt cure or sugar cure. I prefer a sugar cure, myself, because it keeps the meat from going overly hard. Some of the old-time Smithfields literally had to be chipped with a hammer to remove the outer layer of salt before they could be soaked. And they required several soakings to leach out some of the salt and soften the meat.

If you'd like to try your hand at curing I can provide you with my cure recipe. But beware! The process is messy, can be smelly, and takes a long time. I doubt you'd have a ham ready for this Christmas.

The simplest, and probably most common way of making a holiday ham is to soak the ham overnight, maybe changing the water a couple of times. Then bring it to a simmer in the last water until tender. Drain it well. Score the skin side in a diamond pattern. Insert a clove in each intersection of the score lines. Brush the whole thing with either brown sugar, maple syrup, or the like. Lay some pineapple rings on the ham. Bake until cooked through and a nice glace has formed.

A strictly southern method is to make a coca cola ham. If that sounds intriguing I'll dig up my recipe.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #6 of 15
I've also made a ham glaze using the pineapple juice from the can of pineapple rings , brown sugar and a little mustard.
Food may bring us together, but a CAKE makes it a PARTY!!
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Food may bring us together, but a CAKE makes it a PARTY!!
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post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
And I do this with an already cured ham, right?
Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - GM
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Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - GM
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post #8 of 15
Yes, that's correct. The ham is already cured. The soaking/simmering is primarily to leach out some of the salt. Curing amounts to cooking, in terms of its effects. If you could handle the salt there's no reason not to just slice if off the bone and munch away.

What I'm saying is that a cured ham (or any cured pork product) is not raw, in the sense that a fresh ham is raw meat.

By the way, if you take a slice of that country ham and pan fry it, then deglace the pan with a little coffee, you'll have the infamous ham & redeye gravy of lore and legend.

Y'all remember when Joan Baez sang: "I wouldn't be here eatin' this cold corn bread, or soppin' this salty gravy, my Lord, soppin' this salty gravy"? That's what she was talking about.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #9 of 15
Harpua-
If you want to cure a ham for Christmas, you need to start sometime last April or so. :confused:

Order a cured ham from an online site. My source for Missouri country hams closed last September, leaving me on the lurch for this Christmas. After considerable research, I ordered a 16-17 pound Kentuckey ham from

Col. Bill Newsom's Aged Kentucky Country Ham

You can get it cooked for a couple bucks extra. If you cook it yourself you will need a large enough pot to COMPLETELY submerged in the cooking water. This is absolutely necessary.

If you get a cooked one, you will warm it in the oven to make it soft, then cut off the skin (what you get is the back leg of a hog), leaving a thin layer of fat; then score the remaining fat in a diamond pattern and put a clove in each diamond and spread with a glaze such as brown sugar, mustard, and orange juice, and then bake to reheat for serving.

I've been doing this for a long time, so if you want to PM me about it, I'll be glad to talk it over.

Mike
travelling gourmand
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post #10 of 15
>If you want to cure a ham for Christmas, you need to start sometime last April or so. :confused:<

Down here, Mike, I'd actually be starting about now for next Christmas. The basic curing process takes about three weeks, and then you smoke it for however long you wish. Old timers would just leave their hams in the smokehouse.

The cured/smoked ham then gets hung; traditionally wrapped in newsprint, but nowadays small mesh bags are used. Much more efficient, and certainly more sanitary. But it's always sad when a tradition goes by the wayside.

Long about March there is what's called the second sweat, where the ham looks as if it's first loosing its moisture again. That dries up, forming a protective pelicle, and the ham is then good to go for six days longer than forever. Some old timers dust the ham with borax during the second sweat because they feel it deters flies and weevils. I've never bothered. Never had a wormy ham, either.

Commercially hams are now done year round because they use temperature controlled workrooms. But the traditional way requires cool weather.

Harpua: One important thing in Mike's post that I wasn't clear about: After the ham is "boiled" the skin should be removed before baking it. It'll peel right off, but you do want to leave as much of the fat layer behind as you can. And yeah, it does take a big pot to boil a ham. I usually use my canning kettle. If you have a turkey fryer the pot from that rig will work.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #11 of 15
Jezebel sauce.....apple jelly, pineapple preserves, horseradish and dried mustard......this has sweet heat that works well with ham. Very very southern.

to glaze brown sugar, dry mustard, pineapple or OJ.....cloves if you desire.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #12 of 15

Question for you other country ham fans.

As I read Harpua's original question, it appeared that the Harpua family may not be heavily carnivorous at the moment. (The initial post says "I just recently broke out of my vegetarianism.." And "I don't think my mom has ever cooked [a ham] raw."]

I agree with all of you who love country ham, but I am also aware that many people (including some of my less enlightened friends) are not fond of the strong flavor of country ham. [Harpua, it tends to be salty and stong-flavored, and is traditionally serve in very thin slices, with a serving being just a couple of thin slices.]

Is that the best intro to ham for Christmas dinner? Would Harpua be better off starting with a good brand of processed ham instead, which would probably taste more like what he remembers?

Alternatively, Harpua, perhaps you could find some county ham chips, and try it before you invest in a ham or half-ham. I'd hate to see you or your family decide they didn't like country ham because it wasn't what they expected.
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
Well, no. *I* was the one who was vegetarian. My family is definitely not. We have had ham growing up as a child.. strong tasting, salty, thin slices.. exactly what you described.

I was just wondering what alternatives there are to just going to Ralph's and buying a ready to eat holiday ham with the glaze packet it comes with.

So, I think mail order is out the question.. It's expensive. Perhaps I can just go with one of the grocery store hams, simmer it to remove salt, and then score it and use one of the fantastic glazes you all suggested, and then bake it, right?

Oh, and I'm also planning to have leftovers.
Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - GM
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Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - GM
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post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 
Why, yes. I DO have a turkey fryer pot :D
Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - GM
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Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - GM
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post #15 of 15
<Perhaps I can just go with one of the grocery store hams, simmer it to remove salt, and then score it and use one of the fantastic glazes you all suggested, and then bake it, right? >

Well, no Harpua- I doubt that a grocery store ham will be anything like an artisanal country ham. There was a gourmet grocery store in the Montecito shopping area that might have something like that, but it's been a long time since I was there.

You can order sliced, long-cured country hams from many of the ham sources, so you don't face the hassle of cooking a whole ham. Cooking slices is not a big deal at all. Don't forget to find out about red-eye gravy.

In fact, it's hard to find a supplier of whole hams these days - most offer easier sliced options. It's not how it's presented, it's how it has been prepared and aged. It should be upwards of a year old; something I don't think you will find in a grocery store.

Go for the real stuff.

Mike :smoking:
travelling gourmand
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