Our Christmas ham this year was our own. We raised it, slaughtered it, butchered it, cured it, and smoked it ourselves. But this post isn't about how this ham came to be preserved and flavored- it is about how it came to be consumed.
A couple years ago I saw a ham special by Alton Brown of "Good Eats" fame. He prepared what he referred to as a "country ham," which is a ham that is dry-cured then smoked. Country ham is drier and saltier than "city ham," which is wet-cured (brined, essentially). It requires special handling, or you get a stringy, dry, pork-jerky instead of a tasty, salty-sweet pork treat.
We soaked the ham for a couple days. Mr. Brown's suggestion of using a cooler with a drain plug was brilliant. That way you can change the water easily- just let the old water out and put new water in- No Lifting! We left the hock attached while soaking, while he suggested it be removed first. As far as I can tell, it didn't make a difference.
From that point you cook it like normal... oh, wait, no. Instead of just plopping it in a roaster pan (or in our case, our handy-dandy portable roaster oven- the same one we cooked down our maple syrup in), you plop it in a roaster pan with a bunch of Dr. Pepper! Alton's recipe called for a liter of soda, but our ham was big, so we got a 2-liter bottle. Sadly, even that was not enough to half-cover the ham as prescribed by the recipe. What to do? Well, Mr. Farmer is no slouch when it comes to food. He claims that he might even have a thing or two to teach Alton Brown. So, naturally, he came up with a solution: Why not cook a maple-cured ham in maple syrup? We still had a quart or so in the fridge, and another half-gallon unopened on the shelf from the last sugaring. The trees will start running again in just a few months, so we had more than enough on hand to splurge a bit on our Christmas ham. Two liters of Dr. Pepper and a quart or so of homemade maple syrup almost half-covered the bottom of the ham.
As you can probably guess, the ham was amazing. Would I be writing a blog post about it if it wasn't? Every time Mr. Farmer makes a ham (or bacon) I always say the same thing, "Wow, Honey, I think you really got the process down now. This is the best ham (or bacon) yet!" Somehow each one is still even better than the last. I can't wait for the next one!
(PS - I almost forgot - 400 degrees for half an hour, then 15 minutes per pound at 350 for the rest of the time. Cook the side dishes after it is out of the oven so that it can rest. Taa Daa.)