Cooking technique for a country ham?

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tarragon
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2003/12/21 04:20:06 (permalink)

Cooking technique for a country ham?

Okay, did a search to see if this was already asked but didn't find anything, so here goes.

I've got a half of a country ham. I just put it in to soak a while ago; it needs to be soaked overnight (minimum 8 hours), then I drain the water off. Now previously I have cooked it on top of the stove (boiling it in water) but I've also baked it in the oven. Anyone have any recommendations for me? I think I prefer boiling it on top of the stove, but want to know specifically how long, do I bring the water to a boil and then let it simmer, etc. It's a big half too, btw--weighs about 8 lbs or so, and just barely fits in the biggest pot I've got! I shouldn't be eating this stuff (too much salt!) but I really love it, and figure that I only get to eat it once a year or so...

Thanks in advance!

tarragon
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31 Replies Related Threads

    mayor al
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/21 10:15:35 (permalink)
    I hope you get some answers... Our local Market had a sale on Smithfield's that showed some mold...actually quite a bit of mold. They let them go for 99 cents a lb. I got one. We have unwrapped it,soaked it overnight changing the water a couple of times. What should we use to get the surface mold off the Ham itself? It does smell pretty nasty right now, but I think that will alter when we scrub it. I trimmed a corner to check out what lay beneath the surface and it looks and feels ok...like jerky. I haven't cooked a Country Ham before...en-total, Just slices for breakfast. Any tips on making it palatable will be appreciated.
    #2
    bbcuecook
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/21 10:42:37 (permalink)
    I have only cooked one ham whole, I just put it in the sink under running water and scrubbed it with a brush. I usually just slice it for breakfast and trim the outside edge off.
    When the ham is being prepared for curing it is coated with salt and borax to keep the bugs and sort out of it while hanging. I have found that a lot of hams are very salty, to salty for me. The brand that I have found that is not to salty is "MOM and POPS" they make a good country ham. A lot of stores will slice it for you at no charge. Another good use for it is to put a couple slices in white beans, collards or any kind of greens. That is another story I will be glad to share later.
    Good luck with your ham
    Earl
    #3
    tarragon
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/21 11:30:31 (permalink)
    Mayor, that mold is okay--you can scrub it off. Mine had a bit of mold on it too. One co-worker told me that she soaks country ham in ginger-ale (you can use the cheaper store brand) to help take the saltiness out; I've not tried that yet though. I've got to change the water and turn it over so that the other side can thoroughly soak. My taste buds are salivating already at the thought of that ham on some biscuits though.

    Edited because I was so busy thinking of eating that ham I mis-spelled thoroughly!
    #4
    mayor al
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/21 12:53:45 (permalink)
    The label says to use cola to help kill the saltiness!! I have done that before with regular Hams and it works well.
    I scrubbed it as good as I could put it in a deep roasting pan, packed some Brown sugar on top and added a cup of pepsi and a cup of water to the pan. Covered tightly and into a 300 degree oven for a long afternoon. Label says about 20 min per pound, I have a 12 lber. Going to shoot for an internal temp of 160.
    If the out edge still looks crappy will trim it before serving.
    OK Tell Me...What Have I Forgotton?????
    #5
    Sundancer7
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/21 12:54:36 (permalink)
    I know that this is not the proper way but my grandmother who lived in Cumberland Gap cured hams each year. She sliced it and fried it. It was never salty. Maybe she scraped the salt off. I do not know but I do not recall her ever soaking it before she fried it.

    Paul E. Smith
    Knoxville, TN
    #6
    mayor al
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/21 20:39:29 (permalink)

    OK this effort was a colossal waste of time and resources. The ham was indeed moldy around the edges. I scrubbed that off . But the fat streaks that ran between the muscles had the appearance of spoiled milk and smelled terrible. After baking the thing (it looks pretty in it's "Whole condition") to a temp closer to 170 than the stated goal of 160 degrees, I noticed that the few pieces of mold that had survived the scrubbing ran deep into the meat itself. When I tried to shave the "bad stuff" off the surface..Like skinning the fat...I found that the 'yuck' penetrated the meat in places right thru to the bone.
    We cut the meat away from the bone ...trimmed the yucky looking and smelling parts off what we considered the "good" and found that we were throwing out almost 40% of the ham.
    I will not buy a whole ham in this condition again.
    We have boiled the remaining meat for quite awhile this evening. It appears to be safe, but has lost any and all of it's chewly texture and any possible positive attributes. I am afraid I have had a very negative experience with Whole Country Hams. [|)]
    #7
    lleechef
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/21 21:26:27 (permalink)
    Sorry about your wasted ham and wasted time Mr. Mayor.

    When I lived in Michigan and working as a chef one of my employees proudly gave me a country ham from Virginia for Christmas. He was as proud as a peacock. "Yes, m'aam, dat's right, it was made by mah familee in Virginee. Y'all are gonna loove it, chef."

    It was beautiful. Took it home and soaked it. (Thank God this was not planned to be our Christmas dinner.) Changed the water regularly over 2 days. Baked it, it smelled wonderful, it looked wonderful. We could not eat it. That ham gave the word SALTY a new meaning. And it was tougher and more stringy than a boiled owl. Inedible.

    So, we're going to have to wait for the official Country Ham Committee to tell us how to do it right because I, too, had a negative experience.

    #8
    JimInKy
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/22 05:43:58 (permalink)
    Al, I feel bad about your disappointing experience cooking a country ham. I suspect the market knew what they had on their hands, or the ham wouldn't have sold at such a discount.

    We haven't cooked a country ham but have enjoyed many a fine finished product. And we've collected directions and pamphlets over the years. I'll get the best of this to you before too long. Actually, the four brothers who run our best butcher shop will give me the lowdown for you. I plan to show them what I've collected.

    The value added of country ham cooked for you is appreciable. Why not halve the price of the ham at your house, and enjoy the secondary gain of being a great master of country ham!

    Please say you'll give it another go sometime.
    #9
    mayor al
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/22 07:27:50 (permalink)
    Jim,
    Please do send any info that would help me understand what I did wrong....and what was unrepairable!! I shot a photo of the whole cooked ham..but it looks great..I should have done some close-ups of the yucky parts, but was so disgusted with the outcome that we just threww them out. Even Duff didn't get the scraps of this piece of pig.
    We have a beautiful Sugar-Cured Ham being prepared for the Christmas Family Dinner. I don't think I can screw this one up !!
    #10
    Hillbilly
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/22 09:29:25 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Hillbilly

    NO, NO A THOUSAND TIME NO!! DO NOT TRY TO BAKE A COUNTRY HAM! There is no such thing as a good BAKED country ham. Have you ever had baked country ham served to you in a restaurant? Highly unlikely. FRY, FRY, FRY!

    Country ham is for frying in a cast iron skillet. Just slice it off (simply wash the outside with water only and scrape off excess salt, or just cut off a very thin rind of the outside border. NEVER soak it). It will produce enough grease without adding any lard or shortening to the skillet(although some suggest cooking in a few tablespoons of a mixture of water & 7-up). After it has cooked and browned a little, take the ham out and pour in a little coffee (or just water will do) and scrape up the drippings residue from the pan to stir into the coffee as it simmers. RED EYE GRAVY! I alwys like to split my biscuit in half and spoon a tablespoon of red eye on each biscuit half, and then top it off with a little sawmill gravy or sausage gravy). Depending on how much red eye I have produced (usually 1/2 cup to 1 cup), I will dribble it over the ham and eggs on my plate as well as on the biscuits.

    Trying to bake a country ham is an absolute waste of great meat. AND the mold doesn't hurt a thing. It is part of the curing process. Just cut it off and slice what is left. It is more tender if the ham is sliced against the grain (leaving the individual slices to be sliced with the grain as it is eaten). Or better yet, have your butcher slice it or buy it already sliced.

    Don't judge country ham by any baking attempt.
    #11
    mayor al
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/22 09:31:46 (permalink)



    OH
    #12
    CheeseWit
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/22 09:58:18 (permalink)
    Frying a country ham makes sense to me as that is the only way I've had it. I've never done one, but have had it in restaurants in VA.
    #13
    Rick F.
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/22 10:31:39 (permalink)
    We've been cooking the things for years & have tried many methods. I start the same way with all of them. Scrub under running water with a brush; use of vinegar or soap is optional. Do not remove the skin. Do remove the hock and then soak overnight; we've decided that plain water does as well as anything else, although Coke is a tradition in my family. Then:

    • Ignore all of the above and slice off a piece, cut off the skin and, if you like, soak briefly in water or milk. Then fry just enough to brown lightly.
    • Bring to a boil in the biggest pot you can find (a lard stand is ideal), but be sure it's completely covered with water. Simmer for 5 minutes per pound, then remove from heat, wrap the container in newspaper or something to insulate. Put it in a cool place (back porch or garage maybe) and allow to cool. Pour off liquid (it will be incredibly greasy), and remove skin and as much fat as possible. Slice as thinly as you can if serving as is; slice thicker if you're going to fry it. Glazing is optional but pretty if you want to carve in public.
    • Bake, uncovered, skin side up on a rack to about 145-150. Residual heat will bring it to 160.
    A digital thermometer with a probe attached to a cable is very helpful. Mine has a remote readout with an alarm, which I like.

    My great-great aunt cured her own and maintained that anything less than two years was a waste of time. All of this applies to West Tennessee/Kentucky hams, which are salty enough that they need no refrigeration before cooking. Some people even leave them hanging outdoors and cut off a piece as needed, but I've never had the nerve for that.

    Smithfield ham, as I remember from my one experience, is very good but not nearly as salty, so I doubt it could be left unrefrigerated. (Mr. Mayor, an untutored warehouse clerk might have left your ham in a warm place too long.)
    #14
    Rusty246
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/22 10:47:19 (permalink)
    I bought 2 country hams from newsomescountryhams, and both were delicious. We took it to our local grocer and had them slice the whole ham. Mainly a breakfast item with bisquits and gravy. The parts that were less attractive were used for seasoning beans and such. Never baked one whole.
    #15
    Sundancer7
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/22 10:50:22 (permalink)
    Ham lovers, you might want to look at this web site.



    http://www.country-ham.com/about.html

    Paul E. Smith
    Knoxville, TN

    #16
    Maynerd
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/22 11:46:51 (permalink)
    From Smithfield ham's "ham owner's manual" on their web site. Hope this helps:

    If your ham is uncooked, you should soak before cooking, since these hams are dry cured. Soak Smithfield Hams or Country Hams twenty-four (24) hours or longer. Change water every four (4) hours.
    * The length of soaking time is important and should be influenced by your taste for salt (longer soaking results in milder ham).
    * After soaking, wash ham thoroughly with a stiff brush to remove all pepper and mold, if present.

    Back to top

    How to Cook
    Cooking your Smithfield Ham or Country Ham

    Oven-cooking

    * Wrap in heavy duty aluminum foil, joining the edges carefully to form a vessel with the bottom layer. Add 5 cups of water for a Smithfield Ham within the foil and place in oven with a tray or pan underneath for support.
    * Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Once oven temperature reaches 500 degrees, bake for 15 minutes. Turn off oven for three (3) hours. Then heat oven to 500 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes. Turn off oven and let ham remain for 6-8 hours or overnight is satisfactory.
    * Important: Do not open oven door until the cook cycle is completed, including the last 6-8 hours.

    Water-cooking

    * Place in a large roasting pan, skin-side down and cover with cool water.
    * Bring water to 180 degrees (not quite simmering). Cook to 160 degrees internal temperature (or about 25 minutes per pound). Add water to keep ham covered.
    * Take ham from the pan and while warm, remove the skin carefully without tearing the fat. Dot the surface with cloves if desired, then sprinkle with brown sugar and bread crumbs and bake in an oven for 15 minutes at 400 degrees (or long enough to brown nicely).
    #17
    tarragon
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2003/12/24 21:51:31 (permalink)
    Thanks, Maynerd, for the cooking instructions. I did end up cooking on top of the stove by boiling; the ham turned out fine and in fact I've been eating many ham biscuits. LOL Too many, it turns out--my blood pressure was a bit high today! I've had a cold for the past couple of weeks and a few days ago it decided to migrate into my ears, unfortunately. So now I have an ear infection and one of them is aching painfully. Am on antibiotics now, though.

    A very Happy Holidays to all at Roadfood; I had prime rib for dinner tonight (Christmas Eve) - we're all fine so far. For Christmas day we're having turkey and stuffing. I've got to cut back on that ham consumption though ...
    #18
    Rick F.
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2004/03/03 13:46:27 (permalink)
    I just bought & cooked a Smithfield ham. It was okay, but most emphatically not a country ham. It was simply an uncooked ham in a plastic bag.And the **** thing was 23% added liquid! That made the price go from about $20 to about $26. Ab-freakin'-surd!
    #19
    Art Deco
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2004/03/03 14:01:43 (permalink)
    There is no such thing as a real country ham in a plastic bag, unless you are talking about slices of country ham. This is salt-cured meat people, that has been air-drying for at least a year if it's done right. Why on earth would it need to be sealed in plastic? I have seen plenty of hams of the type you describe sold in supermarkets under a Smithfield brand -- this is not the same thing at all...
    #20
    Michael Hoffman
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2004/03/03 14:18:49 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Rick F.

    I just bought & cooked a Smithfield ham. It was okay, but most emphatically not a country ham. It was simply an uncooked ham in a plastic bag. And the **** thing was 23% added liquid! That made the price go from about $20 to about $26. Ab-freakin'-surd!

    If I'm not mistaken what you bought was a ham from the Smithfield Packing Co. in North Carolina. This company makes lots of different pork products, including bacon and lunch meat. I don't know how they get away with calling their hams Smithfield hams because by law only hams from Smithfield, Virginia are allowed to be called Smithfield hams. Some producers of ham get away with it by calling their product Smithfield-style hams.
    #21
    Rick F.
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2004/03/03 14:42:40 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by pogophiles

    . . . I have seen plenty of hams of the type you describe sold in supermarkets under a Smithfield brand -- this is not the same thing at all...
    (Also to Michael.) Oh, I knew it wasn't a country ham--this old Tennessee boy can tell--, but I wasn't looking for one. I did assume Smithfield was the VA version, though, thinking the name was copyrighted. Michael's explanation answers a lot. I'll inviestigate some more. The main thing was the blasted water content!
    #22
    Art Deco
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2004/03/03 15:22:56 (permalink)
    That IS expensive water...
    #23
    sauceman
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2004/03/03 16:31:02 (permalink)
    I've baked, boiled, and fried. My source for country ham in East Tennessee advocates frying, and his method is described in the column below:

    http://www.wets.org/index.cgi?&CONTEXT=cat&cat=395

    Fred Sauceman
    #24
    Sundancer7
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2004/03/03 16:50:30 (permalink)
    Fred: Thanks for sharing the Benton story with us. I have passed it many times but never bothered to stop. I also saved your earlier written stories on "My favorite"

    My grandfather who is now many years deceased use to kill hogs every year at Thanksgiving and would cure about a dozen hams annually. He thought that no day was complete with out ham and red eye gravy for breakfast.

    They always cooked fresh pork chops on that day, ground sausage and generally rendered lard. I always loved the cracklins. The remainder of the day was spent canning pork.

    Paul E. Smith
    Knoxville, TN
    #25
    sauceman
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2004/03/04 09:51:15 (permalink)
    Paul and others:

    I highly recommend Allan Benton's prosciutto. I can eat it by the handful. He'll ship anywhere UPS delivers. The prosciutto runs about $12 a pound.

    Fred
    #26
    redtressed
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2004/03/04 18:15:32 (permalink)
    The way I do a country ham is fairly involved but ends up in good results. First, I soak the ham for a couple of hours woth Coca Cola. Then I scrub , scrub, scrub with a wire brush until mold is easily removed. After all the mold is gone I place it in a large roasting pan and cover with milk and soak for approx 24 hours. I then drain and rinse the ham and place it in a large stock pot in the stove and combine Coca cola and a bottle of cheap bourbon and simmer for about 10 hours. THEN I take out and remove the rind and do a dry rub of brown sugar, a smidgen of ground cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. I toss this back into the large roaster and add a couple cups of the coke /bourbon/ham liquid to the bottom of the pan and roast it about an hour at 300 degrees or until it has a browned crust on it. Remove from oven, let cool 20 mins and serve thinly sliced. Reserve a cup or so of the ham/coke/bourbon liquid to include in gravy.....mmmmmmmmmm
    #27
    Sundancer7
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2004/03/04 18:23:59 (permalink)
    Redtressed: For some reason that sounds awfully complicated to me. My grandfather who killed hogs each Thanksgiving while he was alive did about a dozen cured hams annually. They sliced them and fried them each morning of his life. They did not put much effort into preparation and it was always a very tame taste with no salt.

    I have read several post and most seem to indicate that you have to soak them and scrub them, but he never did and it was tender, tasty and never salty.

    Paul E. Smith
    Knoxville, TN
    #28
    redtressed
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2004/03/04 22:32:43 (permalink)
    It is complicated, Paul. If it's for me, or when I prepared it for my Mom and Dad.......I did as little as possible.......just soak for awhile. When I do it that way, it's for country ham's introduction to city -slickers, who don't appreciate the goodness of bare bones country ham.
    #29
    GordonW
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    RE: Cooking technique for a country ham? 2004/03/05 02:27:27 (permalink)
    Every now and then I get the urge to buy a ham. My wife doesn't like the stuff, so it's usually me to eat it (And old joke: What lasts longer, a yuppie marriage or a country ham in the refrigerator for two?).

    Anyway, I put the thing in the fridge and whack pieces off as necessary. Salty, yes. Thin slices for sanwiches and bisquits. Diced fine for scrambled eggs. Chunks for something like a pot of cabbage and onions. And so on. And yes, salty. I tried parboiling to get off some of the salt, but the meat gets tough and assumes a nasty consistency. Never tried baking a whole ham.

    I usually toss the thing when my wife looks in the fridge and says, "Is this thing still in here?" By that time, I'm tired of it, too. Then, a few months later, the urge hits. The smoked kind is my favorite.
    #30
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