Boiled Country Ham

Ditch your dependence on the glaze and get the flavor to burst from the ham itself.

By Molly O'Neill

From our feature An Easter Tradition: Nancy Newsom, the descendant of a long line of Kentucky ham producers, admits that the glaze on a ham is pretty, but when the country ham is truly great — aged and boiled in water subtly flavored with brown sugar or molasses — a glaze is no more than a flourish. The flavor comes from the ham, aged for at least a year and cured in smokehouses that have been in use for generations. In order to slice the ham as thinly as possible, Newsom recommends starting at the tapered end of the ham and cutting across the grain. She serves country ham with Southern Corn Pudding, just as her mother did.

One 12- to 13-pound authentic aged Kentucky country ham (a serving is about 4 ounces)
1 cup brown sugar or molasses
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1. For a ham aged for a year or more, soak it overnight in the refrigerator in a large pot with enough cold water to cover it. For moister meat or for hams aged for 2 years, soak for 2 days, changing the water once.

2. Remove the ham from the soaking water and scrub it with a clean bristle brush and warm water. Rinse thoroughly and place the ham in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add the brown sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat and boil for 1 hour.

3. Reduce the heat to low; the water should just simmer. Simmer the ham for approximately 20 minutes per pound, or until the hock bone begins to loosen (a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the ham but not touching the bone should read 170 degrees). Turn off the heat and allow the ham to cool overnight in the pot.

4. Skin the cooled ham, leaving some fat on it to preserve moisture. Let cool slightly before slicing thinly.

Serves 8 to 12.


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