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Cooking in hay?

I have a dim glimmer of a memory of a description of meat cooked (in? on? under?) hay. I think it was a large piece of meat and some sort of harvest thing. That's all I can remember. Does this ring any bells? I have a source of lovely fragrant hay.

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  1. Might it have been meat cooked in a pit? Weren't animals slaughtered in the winter time to provide food for the oncoming frozen months?

    When they cook a whole pig in Hawaii, they put it in a pit and the top covering is usually some kind of vegetation. Maybe this is what you're thinking about?

    1. I really can't imagine any thing being cooked with hay unless in a very low oxygen environment because hay burns so quickly you'd need an awful lot of hay.

      1 Reply
      1. re: KTinNYC

        that's why I was thinking maybe the hay was used on top to insulate a pit

      2. Rabbit cooked in hay is quite common.

        1. One of the cookbooks I own states that 17th century recipes recommend poaching ham in water and hay to tenderize them. The editor says this claim is questionable, bu that fresh hay does give a sweet and appealing fragrance to the meat. Any mild-tasting smoked or salted cut of pork would work.

          Ideally your hay will have been recently cut and dried in the sun, otherwise use alfalfa hay purchased from pet shops (alfalfa hay is the sweetest). You need about 1/2 pound of hay to completely envelope a ham; shake it out but not necessary to wash it. Soak the ham overnight in cold water, then dry it.

          Put a layer of hay on the bottom of the pot you're going to poach the ham in. Add the ham and cover it with more hay. Pour in cold water to cover; cover partially with a lid and gradually heat until the water starts to tremble. Set the heat to just below a simmer, allowing 20 minutes poaching time per pound after the water reaches the simmering point. The ham is done when the internal temp reaches 160 degrees F. Let the ham cool in the pot until it is cool enough to handle. Serve it hot or cold.

          I have another recipe from Paul Bocuse's French Cooking which also adds a sprig of thyme, two bay leaves, 6 whole cloves, and 10 juniper berries to the pot prepared as described above, and calls for poaching the smoked ham (that has been soaked overnight in cold water to cover) at a constant temperature of 180F for 15 minutes to the pound.

          I've never tried this technique, nor tasted ham cooked in hay. Let us know how it turned out.

          1 Reply
          1. re: janniecooks

            This sounds closest to what I think I remember. The lamb also sounds good. Thanks!

          2. On River Cottage, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall cooks a leg of lamb wrapped in hay. I can't remember which episode though I think it might've been season 2-3. Supposedly the hay helps insulate the meat during a long slow roast.

            2 Replies
            1. re: rockfish42

              Hmm - I'm not sure about insulation... unless it's a huge, huge bundle. The hay is there as a flavoring agent. Obviously hay is quite flammable and if you had something hot enough to burn the meat it will certainly be hot enough to burn hay. If you're trying to insulate something for looong slow cooking (like a pig in the ground) you would use banana leaves or burlap soaked in water.

              1. re: HaagenDazs

                Just rewatched the segment, his claim is that the hay adds flavor and acts as insulation. The tradition in England at least stems from packing meat in hay lined wooden boxes during transport to hunting parties that were popular in the 19th century. One note to make if someone wants to try this at home, make sure you tuck the hay in to avoid stray bits catching on fire which I'd imagine would be unpleasant. He also covers the whole shebang with a double layer of aluminum foil.