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All Recipes > Southern Ham

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Southern Ham


    The hams that drip at you in the meat-market case in our time are not at all like the hams of old days. The old-style hams are still available, but they come from the South. Western and eastern hams, for the most part, are injected with water, salt, and chemicals until they blow up like a balloon . . . and shrink like a popped balloon when you bake them. In Tennessee the old way is still used. The ham is cured with salt and pepper, smoked, and hung to dry, and I mean dry. The weight loss is terrific since there is little water left in the meat. In the food business, water is where the weight is and therefore the money is in the water. You can understand why a Tennessee ham will cost you around fifty dollars. The most common name from the state is that of Smithfield.

    Since the ham has been cured for so long, it must be highly salted. Before cooking, place the ham in a sink full of hot water, and scrub hard with a good bristle brush. I soak mine for 2 days in fresh water, changing the water twice. The ham is then ready for use.

    Fried Tennessee ham is a wonder, but it is very salty. The ham is sliced and then pan-fried. When the ham is put on the plate and water is then added to the pan to dissolve the wonderful reddish-brown remains that stick to the bottom . . . you have red-eye gravy.

    To bake a ham you need to boil it first. The instructions will be on the package. In order to reduce the salt I put the ham in a big pot, cover with water, and bring to a simmer. I then discard the water and follow the directions on the ham package. I like to let mine cool in the water a bit rather than take it out right away. It will remain moist if you do that. The ham is then baked and glazed. Recipes for a fine glaze come on the package, too. Remember that though these hams appear expensive, they are so rich that one will feed half the neighborhood.

    Source: The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American Jeff Smith, William Morrow & Company, Inc., New York, 1987, pp. 200-201.

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