Monday, November 23, 2009

Blogging the Country Ham

I woke up this morning knowing I had an ordeal in front of me that no Yankee woman should ever have to face: wrangling a country ham.

It happened because I weakened. I let the ham into my life. When I married a man from southern Indiana, which is practically Kentucky (and sounds like it when he talks), I should have known it would come to this. But it took over a decade and a half before it did. He managed to get a little weeny bit of country ham onto the Thanksgiving table last year, horrifying the health-conscious members of my clan (most of whom ate it anyway). This year, he started talking country ham right after Halloween.

So we found ourselves in the 125th St. Fairway in NYC last week, and I found myself making a deal with the Devil: two dozen Malpeque oysters for my dinner, shucked by him, for...guess what.

The oysters were delicious, and Ken shucks them like a pro. It's those keyboard-playing organist fingers that wield the oyster murder instrument so skillfully, I think.

Ah, but this morning...I had to start soaking The Beast. First, I undressed it; it came wearing a little frock made of muslin and printed with all sorts of claims about its colonial heritage. Inside, it was wrapped in butcher paper. I unwrapped that and beheld a giant meat raisin, lightly dusted with mold and black pepper. A pig leg mummy. Yikes. I'd been prepared by all the reading I've been doing: the mold is harmless and should be scrubbed off with a stiff brush while one is thoroughly rinsing the Meat Raisin. Fair enough. One cool thing: it smelled exactly like the inside of the smoke houses we visited in Williamsburg, Virginia.

But even my biggest stock pot would not hold the scary-looking thing. I woke up Ken, who was sleeping in.

"You got me into this. Now you're getting me out of it." I told him, and dispatched him to the restaurant supplier for bus bins (I'd needed them anyway) and an institutional-sized stock pot. Meanwhile I kept King Tut moist inside a water-filled garbage bag in the kitchen sink. Soon, Ken returned, bearing vessels. Tut ended up in a bus bin in our basement fridge, something I thought was an OTT investment when we put it in, and something I bless every time we have a big party or when the holidays come around. I have read that some people soak country ham at room temperature, but I'd be worried about that after the first huge tide of salt water washes away the saline preservative.

So, step one accomplished. Now, we have to change the water every five or six hours or so. I'm thinking--after having read a scad of recipes for country ham--that I'm soaking it for at least 24, maybe 36 hours before it gets simmered. Time for a bath; I just realized that I, too, now smell like the inside of a Williamsburg smokehouse, and I think that could get old fast.

My radio show this week will be my annual Black Friday Christmas music special. More on that anon. And on the drink, when I decide what it'll be.




4 comments:

Ed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed said...

[This is a repost, sorry.]

This was a delightful read, Chris, and I had to good fortune to correspond with your organist husband this morning and conferred upon him my assertion that Country Ham is delicious.

I'm not sure your bargain was fair; Susan and I always go out for our Malpeques (there's a great oyster bar down in Old Saybrook we frequent). I am a fan of the great jámbon in all its forms. When last in town we plunked down for some genuine serrano at D & D, and thoroughly enjoyed the flesh and that unctuous, creamy fat.

Despite my own not-inconsiderable kitchen chops I have never gone after the Country Ham, sticking to his more ubiquitous City cousin, which I like to make with a bourbon-spritzed gingersnap crust (ref. Brown, Alton: "Ham I Am") though I do own a 22 quart stockpot from my adventures in demi-glace.

Tomorrow, after work I make two alsatian tarts and some other preparations. A pleasant holiday to you both!

chrispy said...

Gee Thanks, Ed--

Give a listen today if you're near a computer or an internet radio at 4 EST. I'm doing the Christmas Special.

chrispy said...

Gee Thanks, Ed--

Give a listen today if you're near a computer or an internet radio at 4 EST. I'm doing the Christmas Special.