07 Apr This is for Ed in DC
I have a friend from Louisville KY who goes off about ham at least once a year. He starts ranting about the big ass hams, country ham, honey ham, spiral cut ham, canned ham, cured ham, bone-in ham, boneless ham, fried ham, boiled ham, water added ham, smoked ham, ham hocks, ham sandwiches, green eggs and ham and more ham. Never once did he mention a Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham. Of course, I will make him taste mine and then he can add it to the list of damn hams.
The recipe calls for a corned ham. I could not find a corned ham. Just one more kind of ham. Corned refers to an old process of dry curing ham with salt and the big chunks of salt used to be called corn. Why not salt, when it was salt, but corn as a name for salt?……….never mind. Now, this isn’t the country ham of Virginia fame, the kind that needs to be soaked and soaked again to get some of the salt OUT of it.The kind that hangs in the market in a flour sack wrapper. Country ham is the kind where you put little bitty wafer thin slices of it on a little tiny biscuit and proclaim it is the finest of hams. Not that kind.
I am exhausted just looking for the right ham. Decided to take matters into my own hands and go for broke. Damn the torpedoes. I am stuffing the best ham I can get my hands on. No, I didn’t get a korabuta whatchamacallit heritage breed pig Snake River ham from the Boise Co-op for $75. I went directly to Greenfield’s Country Meats in Meridian ID. They have been curing hams the same way for 30 years. They make the best ham hocks money can buy. I bought a nine pound boneless ham for $30. It had been injected with a curing liquid and then hung in a smokehouse. But the absolute minimum liquid is added. They told me so. Remember, I am making do with what I can find locally.
I also bought 4 bunches of kale, two heads of cabbage, some celery, a sack of onions, fresh mustard seed, and some green onions. I will post the actual recipe tomorrow.
First, you have to pulp the ham. Pulp is another name for plump. You put the ham in a big pot and cover it with water, bring it to a boil, turn it off, let it sit in the hot water for about 20 minutes. Remove the ham from the water but DON’T DISCARD THIS POT OF WATER. Now the ham is sitting on the counter cooling down.
Start coarsely chopping the bunches of kale, one head of cabbage, two big onions, one bunch of green onions and a half a head (?) of celery. After all this stuff is chopped, put it in the hot ham water. Bring it to a boil. Let it roll for a couple of minutes or at least bring it back to a boil and let it go for 2-3 minutes, then turn it off and let it wilt down. By reducing the greens in size, you can stuff more into the ham holes.
I set the colander in the big stainless mixing bowl to catch the liquid from the greens. Drain the greens BUT save the liquid one more time. After lifting the colander of greens off to the side, you must let it cool so you can mix it with your hands. Now, you add the dried spices: mustard seeds, celery seeds, red pepper flakes, black pepper, salt, and other yums. Mix thoroughly with the wilted greens.
Oh yeah, ham holes. I laid the ham on the counter on a dishtowel to keep it from slip sliding away. I randomly made deep incisions into the ham with a long narrow slicing knife. I tried to make the slits, about 4 or 5 from one end of the ham to the other, not side to side, but from end to end. And then added a couple of random slits. Try to envision slicing the cold ham, across, and seeing the stuffing in long veins throughout the ham. Stuff the greens and spices into the holes. When you can feel that you are stuffing the greens into a pocket and you are touching a previously stuffed pocket, you are there! You may have as much as half the green stuffing left over, not to worry. Now, you have an enormous mess in the kitchen and it is about to get bigger. Yeeehaw.
I cut a 6 foot piece of cheesecloth. My cheesecloth comes doubled, in a kind of “tubular format.” I tied a double knot halfway down the 6 foot length. Then, I turned the entire thing into a bag shape and stretched the top of it over a big stainless mixing bowl. I put the ham on top of the cheesecloth and started packing the left over green stuffing all over the ham. Pull the ends together like a bag or bouquet in one hand, tie it into a big knot. Ham in a bag. Place the entire bag back into the reserved cooking liquid, make sure the ham is covered with liquid, add some extra water if necessary, cover the pot, bring to a simmer and let cook for about 15 minutes a pound.
Let the entire container cool with the ham sitting in what they call, the “pot likker.” I will wrestle this big pot into my back up refrigerator, the one down in the garage. If you don’t have a second refrigerator, set the entire pot into a big cooler and pack ice around the pot. Keep the lid on the pot or cover it with foil. Best to cool overnight.
Tomorrow, I will remove the ham in its bag from the stew pot, and place it on a big cookie sheet, pull the cheese cloth off. I will put the ham on a nice platter, surround it with the extra greens that had been packed around the ham in the bag. Then, it will be sliced into thinnish slices, and served with a dijon type mustard. Great with traditional Easter side dishes, like scalloped potatoes, and then again later, in sandwiches.
I haven’t made this stuffed ham in 20 years. It was so much fun. I just happen to have some pals here in town who have eaten traditional Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham. They will be tasters tomorrow.
For Ed of The Slow Cook, I gave it my all today. Tomorrow: the verdict.