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Apr 5, 2010 10:42 AM

Advice on preparing traditional cured/smoked/aged ham?

So I am the fortunate owner of a 17 pound aged ham prepared in the traditional fashion for long-term aging and stability. I have dubbed it "Hamzilla." It has very very dense, deep burgundy colored meat that is much more akin to prosciutto than any ham you might get at the average grocery store (it has virtually no water content). My questions are as follows. The FDA considers this meat to be uncooked and therefore does not recommend eating it without preparation, but it looks and tastes exactly like prosciutto (but with a little bit of a smokiness). Can I use it as such? Also, the meat is very salty due to the process of creating a shelf-stable product (this thing was made last fall). The manufacturer states that the ham can be soaked over night to remove some of this salt, but considering that the skin covers most of the meat (and it is TOUGH skin) I can't imagine a 24 hour soak is going to do much to remove salt. Any thoughts on how long to soak this thing so that it is edible, without messing up the texture/flavor of the meat? Thanks. Here is a link to the smokehouse with a picture of a similar ham.

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  1. Missouri hams are similar to Virginia country hams...not as dry and salty as Smithfield, but close. Proper cooking is a formidable tast. Soak the ham for 2-3 days submerged in cold water, preferably changing water periodically. If you don't do this, it will be very salty. Simmer the ham for the prescribed time in the instructions. Some hams may require changing water, but only if very salty (like Smithfield). Before simmering, you might want to scrub off any mold and pepper. When ham is done, let cool and trim skin and fat. You may, if you wish, score ham and cover with cloves and a paste of brown sugar, vinegar and dry mustard. Bake for 30-45 minutes just to set the glaze. The ham may look like prosciutto now, but trust me, it does not taste like prosciutto. If it has been aging for a while, more soaking may be required. You just have to guess at this. After cooking a few hams, you will get the hang of it. Good luck. Please do not think I exaggerate. I have told many people how to cook country hams, and some regret not following my advice. This is why I recommend if you are not a masochist, buy a country ham already boned and cooked.

    1 Reply
    1. re: OldTimer

      THANKS. I have a butcher who is willing to cut it for me. I was thinking about removing the picnic ham and then maybe having him spiral slice it and tie it for me. If I do these things and then soak it will it ruin the meat? If it is spiral sliced and the picnic is removed, I figure that I might be able to cut back on the soaking time? Any thoughts? Thanks again

    2. You may certainly eat the meat as you would proscuitto, if you find it to your liking. It will be significantly more salty and may also have a pronounced "tang" that you may or may not enjoy. If you like the taste of it "crudo" and have a use for it, I say have at it.

      To cook it as you would Country Ham is also an option. I am not as keen on that method since I was not raised on Southern food.

      You are lucky to have such a piece at your disposal.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Ernie Diamond

        No kidding. It is a beauty. My plan right now is to soak it whole for 24 hours from Thursday evening until Friday evening. On Friday evening I will have my butcher take the picnic ham off and cut the main ham to an appropriate size for a large Sunday dinner with family and friends. I am going to freeze the excess. As far as preparation goes, I may put the thing in water and bring it up to a boil, then remove and bake in a covered dish with a few inches of water until it is done, then remove fat/skin and do a quick glaze bake at the last minute. Does that sound reasonable to you all?

        1. re: squabbit

          It sounds excellent. So once your butcher takes off the picnic ham, what are you left with? I'm sure I don't have to add that the bone is invaluable for soups or beans.


          1. re: Ernie Diamond

            You are quite right. Everything will be saved. After he takes the picnic off I think I will have him cut a large steak off that I can slice into smaller steaks or frying slices. It kind of depends on how much comes off with the picnic, but I don't want to cook too much at once. It requires a bit of calculation because, as you know, the meat is so much more dense than regular ham. I can judge what people will eat with a regular cooked ham, but this is a different animal.

            1. re: squabbit

              I shudder at your plan. If you are reading cookbooks,ignore them. A "picnic ham" is not a ham at all, it is a smoked cured shoulder. Ham refers to the hind leg of a pig. I think you mean the "hock", which you may cut off of the ham. If you are accurately describing a true cured country ham, it will not taste "just like prosciutto" as someone descibed. It will be dry, salty, uncooked and horrible. Go online and check some good cooking methods for country ham. You obviously have no idea of what I was talking about. Please, do not listen to people who do not know anything about cooking country hams. For example, "regular hams" as you call them are about 60% water. That is why they taste "different". Good luck.

              1. re: OldTimer

                Old Timer, it was the OP who said that the ham tasted "just like prosciutto" and they clearly enjoyed it. I remind you that the great dry-cured hams (Iberico, Prosciutto, Bayonne) are all eaten "uncooked." While they don't all taste the same, to say that a cured ham will taste horrible *because* it is uncooked is misleading.

                Your contention of what tastes good and bad is just your opinion. Since the OP's taste for ham doesn't impinge on your own, I think that they ought to be allowed that pleasure.