Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Down Home Goodness Of Ham

Hams , like turkeys are synonymous with holiday cooking. Yet you can eat this versatile meat all year long.It doesn't come out just for Christmas or fall Sunday dinners. You can bake it any time you like, slice it up for dinner or save it for leftovers.

What exactly is ham? It's usually the cured haunch or rump of a boar or a pig. Most people have eaten the former although boar ham is popular in some countries. Hams were eaten throughout antiquity and the Romans often wrote about it. Most hams are dry cured although there are the wet cured ones (ones that have been pickled in brine and then tinned). Almost every country has their take on dry cure ham, the most notable being Italy and Germany . Italians are known for their dry cured prosciutto which is cured with just salt. There are no nitrates or spices added for extra preservation and taste. It's just coated in fat or lard which speeds up the curing process. The Germans are known for two varieties, Westphalian ham which is cured over juniper and beechwood fire and Black Forest which is smoked over sawdust and fir. Both are tasty and make wonderful fillings for sandwiches.

Consider yourself lucky if you have leftover ham this season. You can make the ubiquitous ham sandwich but you can also make your own deviled ham (this by grinding ham and mayo together in your food processor). Ham bits are wonderful in omelets as well as in quiches. Ham croquettes are another good idea. Don't forget to use the leftover bone when making pea soup. This will give it extra flavor and a certain smokiness.

If you're running out of meal ideas , then consider a nice ham. It's good any time of year any day of the week. You can use it as the main meal and for two or three days of meals afterwards.

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