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 is almost always a ham.

Jim and I talked for hours and hours on the subject of hams and the proper way to cook a Smithfield (they are too expensive to make mistakes). Here’s what we decided:

Ingredients

Method

Wash the ham in cold water with a stiff brush to remove the pepper, then put it in a pot large enough to hold it vertically, cover with cold water up to the shank, and soak it overnight.

The next day, throw out that water. Fill the pot with cold water up to the shank of the ham again. Bring the water to a boil, add the vegetable mix and herb bundle, and simmer over low heat until the ham shank, or hock, is flexible to the point of breaking off, 5 to 6 hours depending on the size of the ham.

Let the ham cool in the water. Then take the ham out and remove the skin and trim down the fat until there is half an inch left overall. Put the ham in a baking pan, pour two glasses of Madeira over it, cover with foil, and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Take the ham out of the oven and let it cool while still covered. The ham is then ready for carving in the thinnest possible slices, and serving with almost anything. I like it with stuffed dates and Sauternes or figs and Madeira.

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