Country Ham


When one remembers Jim Beard, the image of huge platters of sausages and steaming boiled meats, especially pork, is usually conjured up. In those photographs where he is standing in front of a mound of sausages, looking slightly pink and stuffed himself, there tends to be a ham. Jim and I talked for hours and hours on the subject of hams, and the proper way to cook a Smithfield. We decided on the following: Wash the ham off with a stiff brush to remove the pepper, then soak it overnight in enough water to cover it. Then, in a pot large enough to hold it vertically, submerge the ham in enough water to come right up to the shank but not above it, and poach it with carrots, onions, celery, and bouquet garni, until the ham shank or hock is flexible to the point of breaking off, five to six hours depending on the size of the ham. Remove the ham and let it cool; remove the skin and trim down the fat until there is half an inch left overall. Put the ham in a baking dish, pour over two glasses of madeira, cover with foil, and bake in an oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let the ham cool while still covered. The ham is then ready for carving in the thinnest possible slices, and serving with almost anything, like stuffed dates and Sauternes or figs and Madeira.