Oct 8, 2010

Meet your Meat: Boneless Ham

This article is written by guest blogger, Katie of Farm Girl Natural Foods, and was orginally posted on her blog The Inside Dirt.

A ham is a ham is a ham, or is it?

To most, a ham is a giant hunk of meat that arrives in our shopping carts already cured, smoked, and spiral sliced and just needs a little heating to make a holiday table centerpiece. It's also a large, lean section of a pig's leg.

At Farm Girl Natural Foods, ours come either as whole hams (15+ lbs) or as 4-6 lb boneless roasts. Center cut roasts will have very little fat around the outside while most others will include the fat normally surrounding the whole leg.

As I learned early on in pig farming, there's traditionally a lot of work in taking a ham from lean, neutral meat to that state of caramelized, cured succulence. The crucial step, curing and smoking, is nearly impossible for the small farmer to do legally for retail. I'll save the full story of local butchers and smokehouses for another post and say: our hams are fresh (not smoked) and ready to take your culinary direction. To me, this was a daunting discovery.

How do you make a ham into a ham when you have to do it all yourself? I did a lot of reading and found two keys: brining and creating a caramel rind. Both are simple if you give the whole project some time. Below is the least confusing and most appetizing recipe I found at Cooks Illustrated.

Roast Fresh Ham


1. Carefully slice the outside of the meat in a cross-hatch pattern with a serrated knife (I used a bread knife).

2. In 1 gallon of water, combine the following:

  2 cups salt
  1.5 cups packed brown sugar
  10 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed and peeled
  5-8 bay leaves
  fresh ground black peppercorns

3. Submerge the ham and let soak, refrigerated for 8-24 hours

the finished product

1. Puree together 1/4 cup sage, 1/4 cup parsley, 8 medium garlic cloves (peeled), 1.5 tsp table salt, 1/2 tablespoon black pepper, and 1/4 cup olive oil.

2. Remove the ham from the brine, rinse thoroughly, pat dry, and place on roasting pan, rind (or fatty side) up. Massage all over with herb rub, making sure to get it in all those nooks and crannies.

3. Roast in the oven on the lowest rack at 500 degrees for 20 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the glaze:

  1 cup apple cider
  2 cups packed brown sugar
  5 cloves

Bring to a boil, simmer 5-7 minutes and let cool.

4. After 20 mins at 500, turn the oven down to 350 and baste the ham with the glaze. Roast for an additional 15 mins/lb and glaze when removed from the oven. It may smoke a little as the glaze caramelizes, just tell your smoke detector to chill out.

5. Carve and enjoy!!
If you'd like to purchase a ham from Farm Girl Natural Foods, you'll find Katie on Saturdays at the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market or purchase on-line through the Arkansas Sustainability Network.  Or email her:  katie AT farmgirlfood DOT com

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