A real country ham is a whole 'nother animal (so to speak) from your deli or Boar's Head ham. The good ones are salt-cured, smoked, and hung for a year or more to cure. For more than twenty years I have ordered one from Esicar's Smokehouse in Capr Girardeau, MO. It's the town next to my ancestral farm in Jackson; my forebears raised Aberdeen Angus and cured their own hams since 1848. They've all passed away and I have never been a farmer, so I have to order.
http://management.semo.edu/schfa04/jmbruyette1s/esicars/faq.htm Hold everything- read my edit
The Esicar family, which ran the smokehouse for 73 years, retired a few years ago, to my coinsternation, and I had to get year-before-last's ham from Colonel (what else) Bill Newsome's operation in Princeton, KY. They cure them for a year. The new operators of Esicar's don't cure them as hard as the original owners did, but they do a good job.Their whole hams - 14-16 pounds - run about $50 delivered, whereas the old, tough-as-leather hams from Newsome will be about $100.
EDIT- I got ham slices this week from Esicar's/Old Country Smokehouse in Cape Girardeau, and I can no longer recommend it. Their website said $2.29 per pound for cooked slices, but the invoice was a little over $5.00 per pound. With shipping, the slices came to just over $10/pound and... for country ham they ain't very good. After several decades of ham from here, I'm through with them. The
new owners don't know from ham. L:ast year I got several of their smoked sausages and a couple backs of bacon. They weren't very good, either.
One word of advice - it is IMPERATIVE that you completely submerge the ham in water to cook it. Since what you get is the back leg of a hog, this requires one he!l of a big pot. I strongly suggest you have then cook it for you for a few extra bucks. It's winter - it will ship just fine by UPS. A few years ago, Esicar's forgot to cook mine and I had to go to a restaurant-supply place and rent a pot. You don't need the trouble.
KYH's cooking tips are right on - what the he!l, he's in Kentuckey - skin the hide off LEAVING a layer of fat, cutting shallow diamond-shapes in it - not down to the meat - and applying the garnish of your choice. I prefer to put a whole clove into the fat in the center of each diamond, and then slathering with a mix of orange juice and mustard. No Coca-Cola for me.
Then bake according to the directions you will be supplied. Let rest briefly, slice (hope you have an electric knife) as thinly as possible; you'll get directions for that, too. There is definitely a right way to do it. Then sit down to enjoy. After a couple days, you can break down the remaining ham (1/4" slices for frying and don't forget the Red Eye Gravy and grits, and more like 1/16" for sandwiches. All this freezes just fine, preferably in vacuum pouches. I've got some in the freezer that's two or three years old, and still makes great sandwiches.You should keep the unsliceable chunks to grind up for the best dang ham salad you will ever eat. (I like James Beard's recipe for this).Don't leave a scrap of meat on the bone. Oh, and the bone goes great in a pot of beans.
If I have made this sound daunting - it really isn't, and the results will hook you for the rest of your life, as they have done to me.
If you'ld like specific advice or some reassurance, feel free to PM me. I always love a chance to pontificate.
Oh, and order pretty soon for a good selection, assuming you have the refrigerator space to hold it for a month.
Edited by MikeLM - 12/12/10 at 7:28pm