Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one

Post
Buffalo Tarheel
Double Cheeseburger
2008/12/30 19:42:23
I have a question for anyone who has cooked a country (salt-cured) ham.  During our vacation trip to the North Carolina homeland, I was blessed enough to receive a country ham to take back to Buffalo.  I learned that some of my relatives have been baking the ham (after soaking it sufficiently, of course) instead of the traditional (at least I believe it to be traditional) method of boiling the ham.  Growing up I had always eaten the boiled version of the ham.  The advantages of baking versus boiling is that you don't have to find a large pot to boil it in.  The disadvantage of baking is that you don't end up with the leftover "pot liquor" water from the boiled ham that is great for cooking potatoes and greens in.  I am curious if any of you all have some thoughts about which method is the best one, or maybe it just depends on what you have in the way of cooking utensils or whether you want to cook vegetables also.  I have eaten both kinds and found them equally delicious.  Perhaps this question is on the magnitude of counting the number of angels on the head of a pin, and if so I apologize. 
 
I also have another question that I should have posted earlier.  In NC it is possible to take the ham to the store and have the ends cut off or have the ham cut in half.  In NY State (home of regulations on everything), I suspect that I would not fare well trying to do so.  (And of course it would take some time to explain to a butcher how this ham is different).  Cutting the bone presents some challenges, but the technology may be simple.  Has anyone had success cutting one with a circular saw, or am I in danger of making the news for all the wrong reasons?
 
Thanks.
Sundancer7
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/30 19:49:19
I buy all my hams from Food City and they slice them for free before you cook.
 
I have always fried my hams without any difficulty as they were salted but we never used the exterior.  The oil residue made super red eye gravy with some coffee added.  Great over biscuits.
 
Paul E. Smith
knoxville, TN 
RibRater
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/30 20:58:02
Buffalo Tarheel
I also have another question that I should have posted earlier.  In NC it is possible to take the ham to the store and have the ends cut off or have the ham cut in half.  In NY State (home of regulations on everything), I suspect that I would not fare well trying to do so.  (And of course it would take some time to explain to a butcher how this ham is different).  Cutting the bone presents some challenges, but the technology may be simple.  Has anyone had success cutting one with a circular saw, or am I in danger of making the news for all the wrong reasons?


I personally prefer a country ham to be baked. Any local meat dept (in NC) should be willing to cut the ham any way you like...in half or in steaks. I wouldn't tackle it with a circular saw...maybe a nice bandsaw if you have one handy.

Pogo
Cheeseburger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/30 22:23:09
Use a store butcher if at all possible. If not, buy a new hack saw. Wash it and use it to cut through the bone. It will be a chore but you can do it that way.
Good Luck
Nancypalooza
Filet Mignon
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/31 01:14:08
Yeah Buffalo, I asked my friend, second generation grocery store people from NJ, who works in NC now.  She says you're probably right about nobody in NY being willing, regulations wise, to cut it for you, but seconds what Pogo suggests.  Carving it won't be bad at all if you can live with the bone but if you've got to reduce the size then you'll need a saw.  You know I saw something on Michael Ruhlman's blog recently about them taking apart a whole pig; it's not super relevant but you might want to nose around there for tips since he wrote that Charcuterie book?  Maybe?

Edited to add: a loooong time ago somebody gave me one of those country hams in the bag and I was so intimidated by what you were supposed to do to it that I gave it to a food bank.  Which is good but don't be a chicken butt like me.  :)
post edited by Nancypalooza - 2008/12/31 01:15:54
boyardee65
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/31 01:50:51
  I just happened to watch an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown that addressed all of the issues you are asking about. It was last night as a matter of fact. Go to Food Network.com for the recipes.

David O.
Buffalo Tarheel
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/31 06:42:49
Thanks, everyone, for the comments. 

Sundancer7,

Thanks for the note about the red eye gravy. That is something that I don't want to leave out.
Ribrater and Pogo,
I don't have a bandsaw but can see the value of getting a hacksaw.  Either option sounds better than trying a circular saw.

Nancy,
 
Thanks for the recommendation.  I will check out Michael Ruhlman's blog and see what tips I can glean.  As far as giving the ham away, I am guarding it with my life to make sure no one takes it away. OK, so maybe I would have trouble giving it away here, but someone might take it if I tried hard enough.

Boyardee65,
Another good suggestion about checking out Alton Brown's techniques.  What he suggests might scare me to death but will definitely be interesting.  That's what I get for neglecting to watch Good Eats this week. 
Again, I appreciate the help that you all have provided.
post edited by Buffalo Tarheel - 2008/12/31 06:44:01
Jimeats
Filet Mignon
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/31 10:02:36
You have a couple of options here, about the cutting.
If you have a local butcher that you frequent ask him, he may bend the rules for a good coustomer.
A culinary arts program at a local school may be of some help. A chef at a local restaraunt may assist also. Do you know any deer hunters? They generaly have a meat, hand hack saw for this chore. A meat hack saw is larger, longer blade and more distance between blade and brace, for obvious reasons.
Good luck, I wish I was saddled with your problem.
Chow Jim
seafarer john
Filet Mignon
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/31 10:20:49
A hacksaw lacks the high brace needed to cut thru a ham. Good quality butchers saws are available online for less than 20 bucks, and, one is a good investment. I happen to be lucky enough to have acquired one thru marriage
( no, it wasn't  really a part of her trousseau, nor in her hope chest) ) and find occasion to use it about twice a year. And, don't try to saw thru the meat to get to the bone. The saw will make a mess of the meat - use a sharp knife to cut to the bone and then use the saw on the bone. When we have a country ham I have to saw off an inch or two of the shank end so it will fit into our largest pot - a big canning pot.

Now I have a question for my Southern friends who have grown up with those hams. How do you hold the ham in place for easy carving? the Italians and the Spanish have invented nifty ham holders (prohibitively expensive) that make for an elegant presentation and hold the ham firmly for carving. I devised a homemade holder out of a large cutting board, some dowels and a stainless steel pin to effectively hold the ham - not elegant, but serviceable. 

And, for what it's worth, I think boiled country ham is  better than baked.

Cheers, John 

 
Buffalo Tarheel
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/31 12:51:05
Jimeats and Seafarer John,
 
Thank you both for the suggestions about an alternate way of cutting the bone.  The idea of finding a butcher's saw on line sounds like a great option to pursue.  I will follow the advice about cutting the meat first with a sharp knife in order not to make a mess.  Unfortunately I don't know any local butchers, as we tend to buy meat in the packages.  However, these suggestions are great ones.
 
As far as how to hold the ham, I have never thought about it and will consult with my relatives on what they do. 
 
It will be a while before we cook this particular ham, as I am recovering from a week of good (but salty) eastern North Carolina food.  Maybe in a few months we will cook the ham (if I can hold off that long, which is debatable).  In the meantime, I can return to eating healthier food such as chicken wings grilled chicken and pizza plain baked potatoes.
 
All the best to you all.
post edited by Buffalo Tarheel - 2008/12/31 13:45:53
the grillman
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/31 13:33:23
Don't you have to boil a whole country ham before baking?  I always thought a true country ham was dry as hell, and completely salt-ridden, and had to be boiled first.

I can't really help otherwise, as the only way I've ever bought country ham (which I love) is sliced and ready for the frypan, for breakfast.   I've also bought the trimmings prepacked for seasoning green beans, etc.
Buffalo Tarheel
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/31 13:50:49
stlouisguy

Don't you have to boil a whole country ham before baking?  I always thought a true country ham was dry as hell, and completely salt-ridden, and had to be boiled first.

I can't really help otherwise, as the only way I've ever bought country ham (which I love) is sliced and ready for the frypan, for breakfast.   I've also bought the trimmings prepacked for seasoning green beans, etc.


You are correct that you have to deal with the salt first.  It is necessary to soak the ham for some time to remove the excess salt before cooking it (either boiling or baking).  If you leave out this step, the ham will be extremely salty and inedible.  Even with the soaking, the ham is still pretty salty (but very tasty).
Nancypalooza
Filet Mignon
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/31 14:11:27
Buffalo I'm giggling about your dietary revisions above.  I'm eating nothing but leftover cheese ball kashi and ice cream sprouts myself.

Also when you serve this beastie, remember that for sides you think about going in a different direction than you would with a city ham because of the salt.  I really like something savory/sweet with country ham, which is why I'm always slathering my CH biscuits with red currant or pepper jelly.

Also if you do give up on it and put it on somebody's doorstep up there in Yankeeville, make sure to put a big piece of masking tape on the bag and write "PROSCIUTTO" on it with a Sharpie, and then they'll know what to do with it.
Buffalo Tarheel
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/31 15:36:26
Nancypalooza

Buffalo I'm giggling about your dietary revisions above.  I'm eating nothing but leftover cheese ball kashi and ice cream sprouts myself.

Also when you serve this beastie, remember that for sides you think about going in a different direction than you would with a city ham because of the salt.  I really like something savory/sweet with country ham, which is why I'm always slathering my CH biscuits with red currant or pepper jelly.

Also if you do give up on it and put it on somebody's doorstep up there in Yankeeville, make sure to put a big piece of masking tape on the bag and write "PROSCIUTTO" on it with a Sharpie, and then they'll know what to do with it.


Nancy,
 
That's a good point about proscuitto, because it does taste and look like country ham.  However, I hope I don't fail so spectacularly that I have to give away this country ham.  If I do, I may never receive another one from my relatives in NC.  I think I might be able to make a few converts of my friends here with this ham once it is cooked, so we will see in a few months (or more likely sooner if the willpower is not there).
 
Interesting point about the sides.  I have always had the traditional sides of butter (lima) beans, green beans and potatoes (cooked together), collards, or cabbage with country ham in the past, mostly because they turned out very good in the ham's pot liquor.  However, it does make sense to have side dishes that are more sweet in nature as a contrast.  Thanks for that suggestion.
Michael Hoffman
Double-chop Porterhouse
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/31 15:40:20
Here's a whole lot of information on cooking country hams:
 
http://www.countryhams.com/cookinginfo.htm
Buffalo Tarheel
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/31 15:51:56
Michael Hoffman

Here's a whole lot of information on cooking country hams:
 
http://www.countryhams.com/cookinginfo.htm


Thanks for the link; that web site is a treasure trove of information (at least for someone who enjoys country ham).
Nancypalooza
Filet Mignon
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/31 17:07:32
No, I have 100 percent faith.  You are not the quivering newbie that I was 15 years ago.  Yes you can!  Yes you can!  Yes you can!

I changed my mind about your sides--those sound great.  :)  Just put out some jelly for me. 
edwmax
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2008/12/31 17:13:59
These small saws from Lowes work great in the kitchen. I use a 15" PVC saw myself to cut bones.



Buffalo Tarheel
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2009/01/01 09:22:26
Nancypalooza

No, I have 100 percent faith.  You are not the quivering newbie that I was 15 years ago.  Yes you can!  Yes you can!  Yes you can!

I changed my mind about your sides--those sound great.  :)  Just put out some jelly for me.


Thanks, Nancy.
 
Given the amount of ham and salty (albeit extremely tasty) food I ate over the holidays, maybe the phrase is "No I shouldn't" (at least for a while until my salt levels return to something approaching normality).  Back to the treadmill (no running in the snow for me) until I can look at that ham without guilt (OK, maybe with a bit less guilt).
 
I think the talk about side dishes has pointed us in the direction of boiling the ham to have the pot liquor for the sides.  If others have a reluctance to eat them, particularly the cabbage, I guess that means I have to finish them (as if that is a hard task).
Buffalo Tarheel
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2009/01/01 09:26:17
edwmax

These small saws from Lowes work great in the kitchen. I use a 15" PVC saw myself to cut bones.





Thanks for the suggestion.  Those saws look as though they would do the trick.  I looked up butcher's saws on line, and they too look like a viable option.
 
I guess now I have no excuses for not being able to deal with the ham when the time comes (probably sooner than later because all this food discussion is making me hungry).
cornbreadnbutterbeans
Junior Burger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2012/08/13 00:00:34
About country hams.
A really good country ham (at least one year in the smoke house) is worth from 10.00 to 15.00 a pound. A two year old ham, i wouldn't sell for 200.00 (not one of ours at least)
I said all of that to say this...
It's a country ham, that we spend hours preparing from freshly killed hogs that we raise in a particular way!
The salt, the smoke and the texture is what you are working (or paying) for.
We  don't boil them, or bake them, or wash them for days to remove the flavor that it took months or years to create.
A properly prepared, salt cured, wood smoked country ham can be "hosed" off with water, brushed down well with a clean stiff brush (only to remove excess salt, mold etc.)
and sliced and eaten raw. The preferred method for cooking, in the south, is to fry it in it's own fat in a covered skillet @  300 degrees for about 8 to 10 minutes or so and serve it with eggs and "made from scratch" biscuits. Leave the "drippings" from cooking the ham in the pan, add a little water (some do not add water) and a cup of strong coffee and bring it to a boil for a few seconds to make "red eye gravy" to pour on your eggs and on a hot biscuit. When you know what goes into your homemade smokehouse country ham, then you are never afraid to eat it. We don't inject salt brine and smoke flavoring, with sodium nitrite, nitrite, msg. and the Lord knows what else. If it's a commercial ham, be careful preparing it, as there's no telling what's in it. Hope this helps. I'm American by birth and Southern by the grace of God! 
Foodbme
Porterhouse
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2012/08/13 00:36:02
Mosca
Filet Mignon
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2012/08/13 13:58:25
I tried a country ham, didn't care for it. It seems like a lot of work and effort to go to, to make a perfectly tasty pig inedible.
edwmax
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2012/08/13 16:10:02
Then you didn't have a cook that actually knew how to use & prepare true country 'aged' ham.   It is on the scale of prosciutto ham.    ...Cornbread above is right, for he was describing 'true' country aged ham.   Too many refer to 'quick cured' hams as country ham. These usually are not aged and may or may not be smoked.   These hams require refrigeration to prevent spoiling and cooking before serving. They are still raw.    Country 'aged' hams are not raw and can be eaten just like prosciutto.
 
Very few home cooks now-a-days know how to cook a slice of country ham.  The posted videos above by Foodme are right-on.    When I fry a slice of country ham, I do it with water in the pan.  This soften the ham and extracts some of the saltiness & flavor for the redeye.  Otherwise the ham will be like cardboard or jerky.    Just let the water steam away, then brown the ham.  Add more water to the pan after the grease (small amount) & bits brown a bit to make redeye gravy.
 
post edited by edwmax - 2012/08/13 16:28:18
3 Olives
Cheeseburger
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2012/08/13 16:50:18
edwmax

Then you didn't have a cook that actually knew how to use & prepare true country 'aged' ham.   It is on the scale of prosciutto ham.   


True, as you can't beat country ham. The biggest problem is most people don't realize it is cured and only needs a brief cooking time.
Foodbme
Porterhouse
Re:Preferences on cooking a country ham and how to cut one 2012/08/13 17:59:02
I lived in TN and worked with a 4th generation Tennesseean who lived in the original (But updated) family farmhouse that still had the bullet holes in the outside log wall of the house from the Civil War! He left it that way as a reminder that the war ain't over!!!
He raised the pigs, processed the hams by smoking and putting them in the Salt Box and hanging to dry. I got my Country Ham education from him.