Introduction: How to EASILY Cook a Country Ham (and Make It Turn Out AWESOME).
Instructions for cooking country hams are usually two ways:
Bake at 500F for 15 minutes, let sit for 2hours, bake at 500F for 15 minutes and let sit for 6 hours.
Boil the ham on the stove.
Both SUCK. The instructions from the ham companies are the above and every time I tried the 500F one, it seemed like the ham was under cooked and nasty. Boiled ham is just nasty.
My lovely wife had us try her method (of slow roasting meat) and it worked like a champ! I'll never use another method.
For the impatient: Seal the soaked ham completely in foil and bake at 225F for 8 hours.
For the people who want to do it right, read on...
Step 1: What You Will Need...
1) A ham.
2) An oven.
Okay, I'm done with the jokes..
3) A roasting pot (large enough to fit your ham).
4) Butcher/carving knife.
5) A bucket/trash can/storage bin/etc.
6) Meat thermometer (digital ones are the best and are cheap).
7) Aluminum foil
8) A glaze (brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and whole cloves - OR- what ever glaze you want).
9) A brush to spread the glaze (I use a cheap paint brush)
OPTIONAL but fun) Sawz-all (reciprocating saw).
Step 2: Which Ham? How Do I Get One?
WHICH HAM - The ham may be called many things but what you are looking for is a "Country Ham". It may be called "Salt-Cured Ham", "Smithfield Ham", "Bone-In Smoked Ham", whatever. Smithfield is the big name but, in Virginia, there's plenty of others. I like Felts (out of Ivor, Virginia).
WHAT YOU DO NOT WANT - "Spiral cut", "Honey Baked", etc. These instructions will probably work for those but, I haven't tried.
WHERE TO GET THE HAM - I moved away from Virginia and now finding the ham is near impossible so I have started just ordering ones online. A whole ham will usually run you about $50-70 depending on weight (which sounds like a lot until you realise how much meat you are getting). We eat for months on one ham. I searched online for them and found several suppliers. This year I ordered from Feridies and was very happy with them
Step 3: Soak That Suckka!
A) Open the ham and scare people with the mold... Always a good time!
Salt cured hams are packed in salt/brine and left "out in the open" for 6 months or more. Like cheese, almost all have mold growing on them. The mold is harmless but to the un-ham-educated, it looks like the meat is ruined. ( My uncle sent a Virginia ham back to his family in California once and they saw the mold and threw away a $60 perfectly good ham. Californians are funny like that).
A lot of people will scrub the ham to get the mold off (to make it look pretty). I don't bother because, it won't hurt you and it all goes away in the soak and cooking. IF you want to pretty-up your ham, just take a clean scrub brush and water and scrub/rinse the mold. DON'T USE SOAP!!!! There will still be discoloration/mold left but, again, IT WON'T HURT YOU.
B) Soak that suckka!
Before cooking, you HAVE to soak the ham for 24-48 hours to leech the salt out. If you don't, you're gonna hate life when trying to eat it. Every year I run to the store and buy a plastic trash can or storage bin to soak the ham in. Some people use buckets (as shown in the picture). The key here is, the larger the amount of water, the less times you have to change it! I soak my hams for 24 hours and change the water about twice (I like a salty ham).
The longer you soak and the more times you change the water, the less salty it will be.
PROTIP: Bath tubs are GREAT places to do this. Not the tub itself but, it's convenient for dealing with a large heavy water filled container both filling and changing water.
PROTIP: We have animals, shower stalls are GREAT for keeping animal tongues out of the water. Storage container WITH LIDS work too.
Step 4: PROTIP: Make It Fit...
Yes, that's how I cut the hock off if my ham is too large for the roasting pot. Don't laugh, it works GREAT!
Step 5: Wrap That Suckka!
After soaking the ham, it's time for the EASIEST cooking, you have ever done.
A) ADD WATER: Put about one inch of water in your roaster.
B) Let the ham soak right up until you are ready to cook. Then, take the ham, still wet and completely wrap it in aluminum foil. I put two layers of foil on it to seal it better. You are trying to keep the moisture in so the tighter the seal, the better.
C) Place the ham in the roasting pot. Skin side up, joint side down.
D) Seal the top with ANOTHER layer of foil (as shown) and place the roasting pot's lid on.
Step 6: Ready, Set COOK!
A) Place in oven and set oven for 225F.
B) Go away for 8hours-ish. Just let it slow cook, we usually go to bed and let it cook over night.
C) After the 8 hours (-ish), pull it out and stick a thermometer into the center of the fattest part of the ham. DON'T TOUCH THE ALUMINUM FOIL or BONE with the thermometer, it can give a false reading. IT HAS TO BE ABOVE 140F (some say 145F) to be safe to eat. Mine typically are at 170F after 8 hours.
If it's not 140F, re-seal the foil and cook more (and QUIT OPENING THE OVEN DOOR! I know what you did).
Step 7: FINISH HIM!
Now that your ham has cooked (AND IS ABOVE 140F inside), it's time to finish it off.
A) Drain the water and oil from the pan and cut what's left of the skin off, LEAVE AS MUCH OF THE FAT ON AS YOU CAN (fat adds flavor).
B) Score the fat. Just take the butcher knife and cut a cross cut pattern into the fat down to the first layer of meat. This creates more surface area of fat and allows more to melt/soak into the meat to give it flavor (it also helps hold the glaze).
C) Glaze the ham. There's TONS of recipes but I use Granddad Council's nice and easy recipe - brown sugar, apple vinegar and whole cloves.
- Mix some brown sugar and apple vinegar. Put only enough vinegar to make it a really thick soup.
- Cover the ham, with the glaze and add the cloves on top. Granddad put them in the cuts to hold them and that works great. I use a new throw-away paint brush to apply the glaze and I also glaze the sides and bottom.
D) With the glazed ham UN-COVERED, bump the oven temp up to 350-425F and place the ham back in the oven. Leave there until the top of the ham (the glazed fat) turns brown, usually 10-15 minutes depending on temperature.
You're not cooking the ham, you're just browning the glaze and fat so, don't leave it in there too long.
Step 8: You're on Your Own.
The ham is now cooked. You'll have to figure out the best way to carve it.
I cut the fat off where I can and just take slices from the top. The rest, I take to my local butcher and have him slice it into sandwich meat.
Previously, I cut all the meat off and stored what we didn't immediately eat in the freezer and ate it over the next few months.
If you have dogs, give them the bones. Animals also go nuts for the skin/fat scraps (and then drink gallons of water).
PROTIP: It's probably not a good idea to give a lot of salt to an old animal.