Stories of Friendship, Family, Fun and Food.
All the way from the Emerald Isle!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Móna's Ham

Tasty Ham comes from Happy Pigs!

It was the end of our first summer together and we were nearing our first ‘anniversary’. Men hate that term especially when it refers to a dating relationship not marriage. It was too soon to think ‘diamonds’ but I could not help but wonder what in store to celebrate our first year of togetherness and as usual he did not fail to surprise me.

Ron, a well known (and loved) Chef in the area was invited to an Annual Harvest Party hosted by the farmers he bought most of his vegetables from. He and a few other Chefs in town belonged to a group called the Chefs Collaborative and they worked with several local farmers in the area. Twice a year they would get together to come up with a growing plan and discuss what was new on the restaurant and farming scene.

The year in question we were invited to go to the home of Robert Howard in Crittenden, Kentucky. Robert was a log cabin kind of bachelor and let’s just say with his exterior composting toilet he was way before his time.

The deal was all the chef’s got to bring their partners/wives/mistresses’ etc. and a covered dish.
It was their way of thanking the farmers for all their hard work during the growing season.

There was never a shortage of good food at an event like this. It was here we discovered Clifty Farms Country Ham ( and a few other goodies that we have added to our repertoire and have been sharing and serving ever since.

The secret to making a great ham is to start with a great piece of meat. We have always purchased the whole ham – bone in. Clifty Farms is a company based in Paris, Tennesee and when we went to pick up our first ham, one of the managers gave us a tour of the facility and told us that ‘happy hogs makes fer gudd eatin’.

Homeward bound with our heavy ham we talked a little about how we should prepare the ham. Oddly enough I had a little more experience with ham than the Chef because it is quite the tradition in Ireland to have a nice ham for Christmas (at least it is in our house!)

Although not entirely comfortable with the fact that I was more in the know than he (say it ain’t so) and needing to one up me, he came up with a pre-treatment plan for our ham. As with many of the dishes we have made and shared over the years, it is our combined efforts that give the desired result!

What you need:

  • A nice size ham
    (bone in for best results, but boned and rolled is ok too)
  • 1 very large pot (to boil the ham in)
  • Cleaver style knife (may need this to hack off a piece of the bone in order to make the ham fit in the pot!)
  • 4 - 6 litres of cloudy apple juice (non alcoholic)
  • Whole Cloves
  • Mustard (Coleman’s English is best)
  • Dark Brown Sugar
  • Honey/Maple Syrup/BBQ Sauce

In order to time this properly, you should soak for two days, boil the ham on the 3rd day and leave to cool overnight in the juice. On the 4th day you should be scoring, studding, glazing and baking the ham having it ready for an evening affair.

1. Soak the ham for two days in 2 litres of apple juice and enough water to cover the meat completely. This draws out the salt from the ham and helps prepare the meat for cooking. Leave covered in a cold room in your house. (Or in the fridge if you have room)

2. On the 3rd day, place ham in large pot and cover with 2 or 3 litres of apple juice and water. Bring to the boil then reduce to a soft boil for as long as it takes. Usually for a large ham this could take three or four hours. You want it cooked but not falling off the bone, so keep an eye on it after 2 hours depending on size. (Low and slow).

3. After it is done turn heat off and leave in the juice overnight to cool down slowly. This is crucial as it helps the meat retain moisture and not dry out.

4. On the 4th day remove the ham from the juice. (Keep this juice for cooking vegetables and stock for soup. It is invaluable for its flavour!)

5. With a sharp knife, remove the outer layer of skin from the ham. Do not remove the layer of fat. According to our good friend Eric Dauer "fat is the magic carpet upon which flavour rides" and I believe he (and his lovely wife Jen) sampled our very first ham! Now would be a good time to pre-heat your oven. (240 °C)

6. Score the fat in a criss-cross pattern and stud it with cloves – pushing the cloves through the layer of fat into the ham.

7. Smother the ham in your favourite mustard using a rubber/silicone spatula. We use Coleman’s English for the flavour and the heat!

8. Cover the mustard with the dark brown sugar. This is the messy part because you need to use your hands to pat it on to the ham and make sure it sticks.

9. Here is where you can decide if you want to drizzle the ham with honey/maple syrup or BBQ sauce. We have used a variety of glazes over the last fifteen years and keep going back to the honey for mass appeal. This is a personal taste thing!

10. Put the ham in the (now hot) oven and watch it closely for ten – fifteen minutes. Once you notice it starting to get a little colour turn the heat down to 180°C for a further half hour. Remember, the ham is cooked. You are just doing this to make the outer layer reach its full flavour potential and texture. Once you are happy with the overall look of the ham allow the ham to rest for at least an hour before you slice into it. This part is utterly impossible to accomplish. Once that hog comes out of the oven you will be dying to slice of a piece to taste your work of art – go ahead, you deserve it!

11. We like to serve the ham at room temperature. It is best that way. Once you start trying to re-heat it, or have it served hot for dinner, it just dries out and all your hard work is gone down the drain! I know this sounds like a lot of work, but after your first one, you will realise it is totally worth it and you will fine tune this recipe to your liking.

Fast food sucks. Be patient. It is worth it!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,



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