Hamming it Up
I have a pretty high tolerance for yuck. Mostly this means that I'm not bothered as I should be about urine, feces (I was recently joking how that would be the perfect marriage proposal gimmick. Enough with all the rings bathed in champagne or nestled at the bottom of a crème brulée. I would get the biggest kick if a guy was like "this catbox is a mess" and managed to get me to clean it. And as I sifted the poop logs out, a litter-crusted diamond ring would emerge from the nasty rubble. My eyes would well up, my heart would soar. Beautiful.) and the like, but I have a serious, serious problem with mold.
It's almost irrational, and the only substance that will induce immediate involuntary throat contractions. Even the smallest whiff of that distinct earthy odor induces the gag reflex. (I have a pet peeve with the movie/tv cliché where someone who is upset or traumatized throws up.) I've never puked from stress or horror, but mold, yeah. Even if I calmly tell myself green and white fuzz is harmless and try to stare it down, I start to retch. I almost went into cardiac arrest cleaning out a plastic container filled with rancid coconut milk.
So, I was excited and hesitant to tackle a country ham that had made its way into our home. I love the salty meaty taste, but feared the bacteria coating that's a part of the aging process.
Everyone seems to have their own prep and cooking preferences for country ham, a lot of the steps conflicting. Do you clean and scrub first? Boil or bake? Soak overnight or for a couple days? I ended up looking to anal-in-a-good-way Alton Brown, for this undertaking.
Since we had the idea to make the ham on a Saturday for a late Sunday morning meal, we had to cut the soak time down to 24-hours. Luckily, we had a cooler large enough to contain the porky behemoth. Oh, and yes, it was thoroughly sloughed and washed first (I'll admit that I sat this task out). We then roasted it for a couple hours in a Dr. Pepper and pickle juice bath. Many recipes call for brown sugar and/or cloves, but this demented soda and pickle byproduct combo won me over with its ungainly nature.
And well, it turned out good. The only dilemma being what two humans are supposed to do with so much ham. I whipped up a batch of biscuits (not my strong suit, mine always turn out flat and crispy rather than fat and fluffy. And the recipe that was supposed to yield 16 only produced eight. You'd think that if my results were half the intended amount that that they'd be larger not smaller) and we proceeded to stuff them with thin ham slices drizzled with "brown eye gravy," the Dr. Pepper and pork fat combo that filled the pan. I think my blood pressure went crazy from all the sodium, but other than shortening my life by a few months the country ham experiment was a success.