LTH Home

Country Ham

Country Ham
  • Forum HomePost Reply BackTop
     Page 1 of 4
  • Country Ham

    Post #1 - October 11th, 2004, 3:30 pm
    Post #1 - October 11th, 2004, 3:30 pm Post #1 - October 11th, 2004, 3:30 pm
    Hi,

    At the advice of Yourpalwill, I bought a country ham before heading north.

    My personal experience with country ham is rather limited. I bought a Smithfield in Washington, D.C., which I soaked with different changes of water in my dorm room. I wrapped it up and flew to Chicago, where I made it for my family. I also have had these hams in friend's homes as well as in restaurants. So my personal working experience with country hams is very minor.

    I was reading Natalie Dupree's advice on country hams over the weekend. She indicated they can be eaten as-is once you have scrubbed the mold off the surface. She also offered you can soak and bake like I did oh so many years ago.

    What I am really interested in is something not quite in her book, but you may have from your experience. I am clearly not going to be eating this all in one shot. I am considering portioning it for future use. I am just not quite sure what is the ideal portioning for future re-use. I am also hoping someone can give me ideas of how to use it - outside of a dinner party or brunch. (I know the classic is serving slivers on fresh made biscuits.)

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #2 - October 11th, 2004, 3:52 pm
    Post #2 - October 11th, 2004, 3:52 pm Post #2 - October 11th, 2004, 3:52 pm
    When I lived in Virginia, we used to do country hams 5-10 times a year for the hospital administrators. We avoided the Smithfield hams as they were very expensive. We tended to use Gwaltney hams. I will say that nearly everyone had a ham that they preferred.

    Here is how I cook them.

    1) Remove the ham from the packaging. Place the ham in a sink and scrub off any mold or impuriyies.

    2) Soak the ham overnight changing the water a couple of times. In a lot of places, we used one of the larger sinks in the kitchen. In some cases, I did the soaking in a large stockpot.

    3) Place the ham in a boiling stockpot of water for approximately 2-3 hours.

    4) Remove the ham from the water and let cool.

    5) Cut the ham from the bone. I *try* to do it surgically making a single cut along the bone. Remove the bone and save for some bean soup.

    6) Using butchers thread, tie the ham as tightly as possible. If you do this right, you should be able to have a pretty tightly would ham.

    7) Refrigerate overnight to let the juices congeal so that you have something that looks like a boneless ham.

    Now there will be some that say to bake the ham in the oven. I don't do that as I have found that it results in a saltier product.

    I hope that helps.

    In using slices or parts of country ham for seasoning, I like to soak the meat for a minute or two to reduce the amount of salt.
  • Post #3 - October 11th, 2004, 9:58 pm
    Post #3 - October 11th, 2004, 9:58 pm Post #3 - October 11th, 2004, 9:58 pm
    Cathy,

    Recently, I bought two 12 oz. packages of sliced, center cut (boneless) Gwaltney ham at Paulina for $9.50 each. I'm guessing your entire ham was lass than $40 compared to my 24 0z. for $19.

    With the exception of a few of the "new southern chefs" serving raw Smithfield/country ham thinly sliced with figs, melon, etc...I'm unfamiliar with anyone other than myself nibbling at it "raw". The texture is not that different from Parma, etc...in texture, but saltier.

    Two days before serving the ham I scrub and then soak overnight, changing the water once or twice.

    Two days before I serve it, I simmer the ham to an internal temp. of 140F. I use water with some aromatic vegetables, but I've heard of using ginger ale, coca cola, or even cider. Let cool overnight in order to let the ham firm up.

    The next day, I shave off the rind, leaving as much of that buttery fat as possible on the ham. There is nothing like the contrast of the dense, salty ham and the rich, creamy fat. Save the rind for bean soups, etc... I like to leave the meat on the bone.

    Rub the entire surface of the ham liberally with Dijon mustard, followed by packing the ham with as much dark brown sugar as possible. Slowly bake in a 250 to 275 degree oven until warm throughout.

    In Virginia, the ham is traditionally served at room temperature, sliced paper thin.

    I like to take the scraps and pulse a few times in the cuisinart, mix with a little mayo, mustard, and bottled mango chutney to make deviled ham spread. They are also good added to scrambled eggs.

    :twisted:
  • Post #4 - October 12th, 2004, 5:18 am
    Post #4 - October 12th, 2004, 5:18 am Post #4 - October 12th, 2004, 5:18 am
    Country ham may be salt cured, but its not proscuitto.

    Smithfield and Gwaltney are the same company--have been for many years now. A visit to the factory near Norfolk could well cure almost anyone of their affection for industrially preserved pork products.

    My experience with country ham duplicates my experience with brunswick stew--I keep trying, but remain ceaselessly unhappy.

    Nor for that matter do I like anything cooked with coca cola--which country ham recipe I suspect you have already come across. Mea culpa--During early adolescence, I must admit I was totally enamored of Coca Cola flavored Italian ices
    Chicago is my spiritual chow home
  • Post #5 - October 12th, 2004, 7:55 am
    Post #5 - October 12th, 2004, 7:55 am Post #5 - October 12th, 2004, 7:55 am
    I agree - you cannot eat country ham without prior cooking. I would not even use the product for deasonaing until it has been properly cooking.

    Both Gwaltney and Smithfield ARE owned by the same company. However, the products AND the target market are much different. Smithfield is the "creme de la creme" of the market and you pay about twice as much for it. Gwaltney is what most people order for the holidays.
  • Post #6 - October 12th, 2004, 8:37 am
    Post #6 - October 12th, 2004, 8:37 am Post #6 - October 12th, 2004, 8:37 am
    A few years ago, I bought a country ham from Paulina and a few friends and I teamed up to follow Alton Brown's recipe from Good Eats. I'm not particularly a Dr. Pepper fan, but it worked very well -- having gone through his procedure (much of which overlaps what's already been said here), I'd use it as a base and then adapt to my own taste. And it may have been an idiosyncracy of the one ham, but next time I'd go for three days of soaking rather than two -- this ham was still very salty by the time we got to enjoy it.

    Good Eats country ham recipe (their printable page with no graphics or ads)
  • Post #7 - October 12th, 2004, 9:05 am
    Post #7 - October 12th, 2004, 9:05 am Post #7 - October 12th, 2004, 9:05 am
    Hi,

    My first country ham years ago was a Smithfield. It was the only country ham I saw in the Washington, D.C. grocery store I used to visit.

    Finding a country ham in Oxford, MS was a two store shopping tour. The first shop did not have White Lily flour or country ham. The 2nd shop only had one country ham vendor available. I bought the largest ham (18.88 pounds at $1.89 per pound for $35.60 total), which according to the label was packed in October, 2004:

    Miller's Country Ham
    7110 Highway 190
    Dresden, TN 38225-2276
    800/622-0606

    So from everyone here, I need to cook this ham before I consider portioning and freezing for future use.
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #8 - October 12th, 2004, 9:29 am
    Post #8 - October 12th, 2004, 9:29 am Post #8 - October 12th, 2004, 9:29 am
    Cathy,

    That was a good price. I was thinking $1.69-1.89 lb and Miller's is a decent brand (although Virginians would never admit that there is a decent ham outside of the Commonwealth).

    I believe that the last time that I saw a real Smithfield, I was $3+/lb.
  • Post #9 - October 12th, 2004, 9:43 am
    Post #9 - October 12th, 2004, 9:43 am Post #9 - October 12th, 2004, 9:43 am
    Jlawrence wrote:Miller's is a decent brand (although Virginians would never admit that there is a decent ham outside of the Commonwealth).


    I'm glad you have good response to this ham. Frankly, I was waiting for someone to do the "Oh my, what a waste of money. A no-name brand of country ham ... " Your comments take a load off my mind. Sometimes you do wonder if you should have gone to yet another store or driven up country roads looking for a sign for a homemade country ham. Especially when you go the path of least resistance: buy the first one you see.

    Thanks!
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #10 - October 12th, 2004, 9:55 am
    Post #10 - October 12th, 2004, 9:55 am Post #10 - October 12th, 2004, 9:55 am
    Regarding the need to soak country ham or cook it in pop, etc., I really think it depends on individual taste and what you are trying to do.

    One of my first food memories is sitting at the counter in Sam Ship's kitchen in Clarksville, TN (close to Ft. Campbell KY). We were the Yankee-dago-pollock family that just moved in and were quickly adopted by the Ship's, our next-door neighbors. Sam was close to the land, unschooled, wore overalls every day of his life, etc. Anyway, Sam raised hogs out back, butchered them, and cured his own country hams, for which he was justly locally famous.

    The hams were incredibly salty and funky, even when compared to cured Spanish and Italian hams. However, the Ships rarely did anything with the hams other than cut off thin slices, which were fried to a crisp but leathery well-done in a black pan. The drippings were mixed with leftover coffee to make redeye gravy. The ham and gravy were served with lardy scratch biscuits. Incredibly good stuff, as best I can remember.

    [PS, RW Apple says how the local expert eats country ham:

    "John Egerton, an authority on the South's culinary traditions, grew up in Trigg County, Ky., which produces some of the country's best artisanal hams. . . . Like many in the region, he fries quarter-inch slices of uncooked ham for breakfast, adding water or black coffee to the skillet to make red-eye gravy."

    NYTimes, 3/24/05]

    (For what it's worth, the local smokehouse, African-American but patronized by everyone in what was then (mid-70's) a frighteningly bigoted town, used to smoke whatever you brought in for a very low fee, and used a very thin sauce not unlike what is associated with Eastern NC. My mom used to bring a shoulder and one of our refrigerator's vegetable drawers to the smokehouse; the next day we'd have a drawer full of pulled pork.)
    Last edited by JeffB on March 23rd, 2005, 11:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #11 - October 12th, 2004, 11:07 am
    Post #11 - October 12th, 2004, 11:07 am Post #11 - October 12th, 2004, 11:07 am
    Cathy,

    I was **hoping** that you weren't going to tell us that you spent $4/lb for a country ham. Personally, I would not pay over $2 as it is not worth any more than that. I did have one hospital president who would insist on Smithfield for the board meeting breakfast and he'd get it as he was, after all, paying for it.

    I have had very few bad hams. I do not recommend that you hold it more than 2-3 months before using it.

    Personally, as I try to eat a healthy lower-sodium diet, I generally buy maybe 2# of country ham slices or dices for seasoning at the NC Farmer's Market or at the local Food Lion store. No more whole hams for me. It is too much work but it is fun the first fifteen times that you do it ... if you have the proper equiment ...
  • Post #12 - October 13th, 2004, 3:08 pm
    Post #12 - October 13th, 2004, 3:08 pm Post #12 - October 13th, 2004, 3:08 pm
    I have been eating raw country ham for years with no ill effect. I usually buy some packages of biscuit slices when I visit my dad.

    When I cook a whole ham, I generally follow Elizabeth David's recipe, I believe in French Country Cooking.
  • Post #13 - October 16th, 2004, 3:05 pm
    Post #13 - October 16th, 2004, 3:05 pm Post #13 - October 16th, 2004, 3:05 pm
    To all,

    This thread has been most enjoyable. I enjoy the discussion of country ham almost as much as actually cooking and eating it.

    I often go to Mayflower at the west end of the Chinatown market when I'm in the mood to cook a chicken. Back at the meat counter, there are some dynamite looking smoked hams hanging, which look almost identical to Smithfield/country type hams. Does anyone know if these are authentic Hunan hams, or are they a Canadian product like many of the salted and dried ducks and Chinese sausages that I see? Could these be the real McCoy, now that Parmas, Itallian Proscuitto Cotto, Spanish serranos, and more are imported into the US?

    Years ago, Smithfield hams hanging in Chinatown stores was a common sight, and it was considered to be an acceptable substitute for the unavailable Hunan product. I no longer see those familiar beige canvas bags with the Smithfield logo in black and red in Chinese markets.

    Which brings up the question: Where did this type of ham originate? Was it the Chinese? The American Indians, who supposedly taught the settlers in Virginia to cure and smoke pork?

    Whenever I am back home in Virginia, I stop at the grocery store, usually a Food Lion, to stock up on sliced country ham hocks, as well an biscuit slices, not to mention scrapple.

    Anyone from Jersey or Philly? How about Taylor Pork Roll, also referred to as Taylor Ham. Is it available anywhere in Chicagoland?

    :evil:
  • Post #14 - October 16th, 2004, 4:48 pm
    Post #14 - October 16th, 2004, 4:48 pm Post #14 - October 16th, 2004, 4:48 pm
    Evil:

    About a year ago, I noticed that my local Treasure Island had Taylor "Ham" in its meat case. I haven't seen that staple of Jersey diner food since. You may want to give them a call. They do carry Boars Head Meats which means they probably have a Jersey supplier.
  • Post #15 - March 23rd, 2005, 9:02 am
    Post #15 - March 23rd, 2005, 9:02 am Post #15 - March 23rd, 2005, 9:02 am
    R.W. Apple Jr.'s pieceon Smithfeld country hams, in today's N.Y.T.

    Erik M.
  • Post #16 - March 23rd, 2005, 11:17 am
    Post #16 - March 23rd, 2005, 11:17 am Post #16 - March 23rd, 2005, 11:17 am
    The pictures of the country hamalone are worth signing up for the NYT website.
  • Post #17 - March 23rd, 2005, 2:02 pm
    Post #17 - March 23rd, 2005, 2:02 pm Post #17 - March 23rd, 2005, 2:02 pm
    Speaking of Chinatown ham, anyone know enough to clue me into any varieties of Polish ham (and where to find it in chicago) that might be similar to Smithfield? I know about Krakus (which is apparently owned by smithfield) but that's about it..
  • Post #18 - March 23rd, 2005, 4:00 pm
    Post #18 - March 23rd, 2005, 4:00 pm Post #18 - March 23rd, 2005, 4:00 pm
    I don't know if Kentucky country ham is different from Virginia country ham, but Kentucky country ham is normally just fried (heated, really, since there's no cooking involved) in a skillet, with the drippings used to make red eye gravy for your biscuits.

    A brief soaking (1/2 hour) in water or milk is acceptable if you find the taste too salty.

    One very common way of preparing Kentucky country ham is to pour a cup of black coffee into a heated skillet, then add the ham slices until heated. The reduced coffee then becomes the base for the gravy.

    I can't say my home results have ever been as good as what I've gotten in restaurants there, but they have been acceptable.
  • Post #19 - March 23rd, 2005, 6:12 pm
    Post #19 - March 23rd, 2005, 6:12 pm Post #19 - March 23rd, 2005, 6:12 pm
    Chuck,

    It sounds to me like you're a bit confused about red eye gravy and country ham.

    In most cases, country ham is raw and cured. Slices (raw) are pan fried in a bit of bacon fat or even a pat of butter. The remaining pan drippings are then typically deglazed with coffee or water in order to make red eye gravy.

    Not saying that I know it all, but I did spend three years in Dean Fearing's kitchen in Dallas at The Mansion on Turtle Creek. That Kentucky boy knows a little bit about country cooking.

    :twisted:
  • Post #20 - March 23rd, 2005, 9:19 pm
    Post #20 - March 23rd, 2005, 9:19 pm Post #20 - March 23rd, 2005, 9:19 pm
    Ronnie, as I noted above, that's how the old boy next door used to do it in Clarksville when I was a kid. The KY guy cited as a ham expert in the Apple piece basically says the same. Must be a regional preference. I never saw the neighbors serve soaked and baked ham. Not saying it was never done, but frankly, I'd think it was about as good an idea as soaking and baking a Serrano or a Prosciutto.
  • Post #21 - March 25th, 2005, 12:15 am
    Post #21 - March 25th, 2005, 12:15 am Post #21 - March 25th, 2005, 12:15 am
    Thanks for the tip, Evil Ronnie. That may explain why I haven't been getting the restaurant results at home.

    It is fine eatin', I'll tell you what.
  • Post #22 - March 25th, 2005, 11:02 am
    Post #22 - March 25th, 2005, 11:02 am Post #22 - March 25th, 2005, 11:02 am
    If anyone is still looking, we saw quite a number of Smithfield hams hanging and in coolers at Paulina Market yesterday. Sorry if this has been mentioned somewhere already. I had never seen a Smithfield ham so I had to examine the one in the cooler very carefully.

    Gosh that place has wonderful meat but I was surprised that none of it is "prime", just "choice".

    Paulina Market
    3501 N. Lincoln Ave.
    Between Ashland and Damen
    (773) 248-6272

    --Joy
  • Post #23 - March 25th, 2005, 11:11 am
    Post #23 - March 25th, 2005, 11:11 am Post #23 - March 25th, 2005, 11:11 am
    Joy wrote:If anyone is still looking, we saw quite a number of Smithfield hams hanging and in coolers at Paulina Market yesterday. Sorry if this has been mentioned somewhere already. I had never seen a Smithfield ham so I had to examine the one in the cooler very carefully.

    Gosh that place has wonderful meat but I was surprised that none of it is "prime", just "choice".

    Paulina Market
    3501 N. Lincoln Ave.
    Between Ashland and Damen
    (773) 248-6272

    --Joy

    I was there last night myself and noticed the lack of prime meat -- strange because they've generally had a small but beautiful selection of prime steaks. Maybe they just decided to give the cooler space to products more in demand over the holiday weekend?
  • Post #24 - March 25th, 2005, 9:53 pm
    Post #24 - March 25th, 2005, 9:53 pm Post #24 - March 25th, 2005, 9:53 pm
    NYT wrote:You want ultrathin slices, he told me. Otherwise the flavor, concentrated by the ham's loss of 30 percent of its weight during aging, would be overwhelming, and the meat would be too chewy. The real family experts on this subject are my wife, Betsey, and her sister, Pie, who grew up in Richmond. In their household Smithfield ham was served either as a "side meat," a foil for something blander, perhaps chicken or turkey, or on beaten biscuits with drinks before dinner. More anon on the biscuits.


    The country ham I bought in October is soaking. Tomorrow evening I will be simmering it and serving on Sunday. From reading the NYT article segment above, they have the ham served as an appetizer or a secondary meat.

    NYT wrote:A favorite dish in our house is what used to be called crab meat Norfolk: slices of Smithfield ham, arranged in individual ramekins (the kind often used for crème brûlée), topped with premium jumbo lump backfin crab meat, dotted with butter and run under the broiler. Surf and turf, sweet with salty.


    From reading this information this evening, I am considering making a crab gratin to serve with the ham. Alternatively, smothered shrimp on creamy grits. These seem to be complimentary dishes to the ham, is this reasonable? Or should I simply serve the ham as the main course?
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #25 - March 25th, 2005, 11:07 pm
    Post #25 - March 25th, 2005, 11:07 pm Post #25 - March 25th, 2005, 11:07 pm
    The crab meat Norfolk is a very popular dish in the finer restaurants in the Northern Neck of Virginia down through Suffolk, VA, home of Smithfield. The only comment that the locals would tell me is to make sure that you are using LUMP crab meat, that is the meat that is located in the blue crab's body cavity as opposed to the claw meat.

    There are five regions within the state of Virginia and while they all eat roughly the same food, each has its unique specialties and peculiar way of serving various dishes.
  • Post #26 - March 25th, 2005, 11:31 pm
    Post #26 - March 25th, 2005, 11:31 pm Post #26 - March 25th, 2005, 11:31 pm
    Cathy,

    Sounds like a real feast. May I suggest spoonbread as another appropriate side/starch. I like the concept of a side meat. Don't forget your pickled watermelon rind.

    I like to serve crab Norfolk over toast points, seasoned with a dash of white vinegar and a bit of Old Bay, then mounted with whole butter, and my preference would be ham on the side.

    The other great crab dish from Tidewater, one of my favorites, is crab Imperial, usually made with a mayonnaise based sauce.

    What are you serving for dessert?

    :twisted:
  • Post #27 - March 26th, 2005, 9:48 am
    Post #27 - March 26th, 2005, 9:48 am Post #27 - March 26th, 2005, 9:48 am
    Oh me, oh my. My favorite use of country ham as a foil is to simmer some slices gently in water for a few minutes to make it more pliable, then run it through the food processor with garlic and black pepper. After that, the mixture is spread under the skin of a chicken which is roasted to perfection.
  • Post #28 - March 26th, 2005, 11:12 am
    Post #28 - March 26th, 2005, 11:12 am Post #28 - March 26th, 2005, 11:12 am
    YourPalWill wrote:Oh me, oh my. My favorite use of country ham as a foil is to simmer some slices gently in water for a few minutes to make it more pliable, then run it through the food processor with garlic and black pepper. After that, the mixture is spread under the skin of a chicken which is roasted to perfection.

    Will,

    As I read this an involuntary Oh Yeah escaped from my mouth. I'll be making this in the next week or so, probably on the smoker.

    I'll be sure to take a few pictures, thanks for posting the recipe.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #29 - March 26th, 2005, 1:37 pm
    Post #29 - March 26th, 2005, 1:37 pm Post #29 - March 26th, 2005, 1:37 pm
    HI,

    Ronnie - I hadn't really thought about dessert. To celebrate the day and the wee hint of spring, why not a strawberry-rhubarb pie. I have strawberries in the freezer I picked locally in June and frozen rhubarb from Treasure Island. Well, it isn't quite spring yet so I have to make due with what I have!

    Will: I will follow your idea and try your recipe this week myself.

    It's certainly been better living since I found my tribe.

    Best regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #30 - March 26th, 2005, 2:30 pm
    Post #30 - March 26th, 2005, 2:30 pm Post #30 - March 26th, 2005, 2:30 pm
    I am partial to the 18-month attic aged hams from Burger's Smokehouse. There's always a commotion when the hams arrive at the mailroom at work.

    I just remembered that I had some slices in the freezer, so they just received the griddle treatment.

    Image

    Image

    The bacon and sliced country ham jowls are mighty nice, too.

    http://www.smokehouse.com/

    Cheers,
    Wade
    "Remember the Alamo? I do, with the very last swallow."

Contact

About

Team

Advertize

Close

Chat

Articles

Guide

Events

more