What to do with slices of country ham?
On a recent trip to North Carolina, I was at a pork store where they sold many forms of "country ham". Having only read about country ham before, but otherwise being quite fond of all things pork, I wanted to give it a try. Rather than buy a whole ham, I bought a vacuum-packed selection of slices. Large, but thin slices from the center of the ham.
Excited to try my country ham this morning, I realized that I didn't quite know what to do with it. Treating it like a conventional ham steak, I took one slice and seared it in a hot pan on both sides until it browned a bit and the juices started to run.
My understanding is that country ham is cured and dried so I expected it to have a concentrated flavor. But...whoa, that was strong. Almost...and I'm afraid to say this about anything pork...almost too strong. It was a bit challenging to finish the cutlet. There was definitely a meaty pork flavor in there that I liked, but it was almost overwhelmed by the pungent overtones and saltiness.
I have several more pounds of these cutlets which I plan to freeze and use from time to time. But how? Are there other ways to prepare these slices that I'm missing? Thanks for any and all ideas!
butter dinner rolls and place the ham in them and warm for appetizers.
wrap chicken breasts with the ham and make a mushroom sherrry sauce to cover well and bake.
Chopped country ham mixed into deviled eggs.
lightly fry and serve with fried eggs
wrap around shrimp or scallops and grill
Stand over the kitchen counter and just pig out.
I've taken to cutting as much fat off as possible, then slicing it very thin to eat along with cheese, fruit, bread and other salume. It's really just unsmoked prosciutto, so try to think of it in portions that size.
If you get it in chunks, you can ask your deli to slice it paper-thin for you, and you'll be amazed how you'll see it in a completely new light.
I love the taste/flavor/saltiness of country ham...So I don't try to disguise/cover up or alter that...
I would have done pretty much what you did...Trim off any fat layer and fry that (along with the ham) in the pan to let it render...After removing the ham (leaving the fat in the pan) deglaze the pan with hot black coffee and a little water...cover and simmer just two or three minutes...Serve the gravy over grits, hot biscuits, eggs, whatever...It's pure nectar!! .... I never soak it, but If you want to I would start with a short soak of a couple of hours...see how you like that, and go from there....For seasoning vegetables etc, I would not soak it period...just cut back on (or out) any additional salt in the pot
Have Fun & Enjoy!
My family is from NC and country ham is always something we have around; I have a whole ham in the kitchen now. As you know, it's extremely salty so you need to remove some of that salt. I soak the ham in several changes of water, usually overnight then simmer it in water, which I pour off as it foams and turns white. I like to then spray the skillet with a little non stick cooking spray or a little oil and cook the ham for a few minutes on each side & serve.
I sometimes simmer the ham in some pineapple or orange juice and let it reduce to give the ham a sweet flavor that compliments the salty aspect. You can also bake the ham by soaking first then baking in the juice. I've also cooked it with apples, pineapple tidbits, raisins and cranberries. You can also dice the ham and use it to season vegetables and I made a lovely mac & cheese with diced country ham. Whatever you do with it, keep in mind that you need to soak it first.
Country ham is an acquired taste. Try soaking the slices in water in the refrigerator overnight. Use some chopped ham as a seasoning in green beans and soups. Chop, cook, and add to risottos. If you're frying the slices, make sure you deglaze the pan with coffee afterward, to make Red-eye Gravy!