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Corned Ham - A Southern Holiday Tradition


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#1 Varmint

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 08:14 AM

When I ate at Crooks Corner recently, the chef (and my friend) Bill Smith had me try his version of corned ham. To me, this dish may represent what pork is truly meant to be. Call it the crack of pork, pork essence or pure pork, but I'll just call it damn tasty.

Corned ham used to be a staple on the Southern dining table, particularly at holidays. It's remarkably simple to make -- just salt a fresh ham, including along the bone made available with basic knife work. Let it sit in the refrigerator for a few weeks, soak it overnight, and roast it. You don't get a true "ham" flavor, but an unctious, juicy, over-the-top flavor of pork.

Bill Smith could make this dish his calling card, his legacy. Our local newspaper even wrote a feature story on Smith's rendition.

Maybe I need to corn a couple of hams for this fall's pig pickin -- or just invite Bill Smith to join me! :wink:

So, has anyone made this before? Eaten it? I'm curious.
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#2 cdh

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 11:37 AM

When you said "corned ham" I was thinking that to be an oxymoron-- the corned-ness of corned beef comes from the preservatives used on it... the large corn-shaped granules of saltpeter, which work their nitrite magic and give it that magic pink color. Ham has to be cured with something similar in order to keep its pinkness when cooked, no?

So in your experience, corned ham is ham but without the full preservation technique applied. Interesting. Calling it after something that is notably absent rather than something that is notably there.
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#3 Varmint

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 11:41 AM

There's nothing pink at all with this dish. In fact, it's an unappealing gray. But my oh my it's tasty!

I'm thinking that this style of pork could be used in lots of dishes, as the featured ingredient of a much more complex dish.
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#4 Varmint

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 11:44 AM

Oh, I just noticed -- here's the recipe!
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#5 fifi

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 12:47 PM

Oddly enough, I have never heard of such a thing. I have got to try this. Would it work as well with a smaller ham? I have become enamoured with the small picnics, shank portion, that I can get at my Asian market. Would the curing time differ for a smaller ham?
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

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#6 slkinsey

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 01:29 PM

cdh: the "ham" Varmint is talking about is, at first anyway, a "fresh ham" (which is to say, the thigh and buttock of a pig) rather than a "cured ham."

"Corning," when it really comes down to it, is nothing more than a mild salt-and-spices cure -- although I am given to understand that "corning" involves curing in brine (aka "pickling") rather than dry salting such as Varmint describes, if you want to get technical.
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#7 jsolomon

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 01:49 PM

Oh, I just noticed -- here's the recipe!

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I love the notes in the recipe.

  lift off the carapace of skin and set it beside the ham in the roasting pan. It will crisp up into the best cracklings ever.


And how to know it belongs in the AWESOME category...

No nutritional analysis available.


I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

#8 emsny

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 03:13 PM

Let's remember that the salted meat of Irish tradition that became the US St. Patrick's day corned beef and cabbage was pork in the old country. And the Welsh do it with lamb. Salting never hurt any meat!

#9 wesza

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 03:29 PM

This is interesting as in many types of Chinese dishes they use a "Salted Pork" that is cured and prepared the say way.

It's often served in "Congee" or Rice Gruel as "Salt Pork with Preserved Egg's" or Braised as Red Cooked Pork, added to Soups for accentuating flavor or even is "Double Cooked Pork" or with various seasonings added to or served along side Noodle Dishes.

It was always very popular , featured at "Tai Pai Tong's" that were often street side licensed outdoor "Restaurant Stands" very popular all over Hong Kong with limited refrigeration and space but large volumes of sales.

It was very popular after being slow cooked in broth then pulled and served over Rice with some Broth and Condiments.

In Hong Kong it was often made with Whole Pork Shoulders or Legs and the Crisped Skin was always very popular. Many Butchers in the Market would put the Pork Salted in Barrels rotating them and keeping it in Salt from 1 to 2 weeks for customers who would pick up the Pork several times daily as needed.

I always thought that it tasted very similar to some of the Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwiches with a Smokey Flavor that I enjoy on visits.

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#10 dls

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 04:13 PM

Corned ham - Now, that's an item that I pretty much forgot about. When I was young (a long, long time ago) my Southern born and raised mother would "corn" a ham several times a year. It was always a centerpiece fixture for a large New Years buffet that my parents would host.

As I recall, and as Varmint mentioned, it is very simple to make. My mother would salt a fresh ham, wrap it well, and refrigerate it for 2-3 weeks. During this process, she would pour off any liquid that had accumulated and refresh the salt 3-4 times. Following this, she would soak the ham in several changes of water for 24 hours. It would then be roasted, thinly carved, and served (either warm or at room temp).

Inspired by this thread, I called my butcher and ordered a fresh ham for delivery tomorrow. After processing, I'm thinking about smoking the ham instead of roasting it. I figure if I take to an internal temp of about 160F-165F, it would be sliceable. 190F-195F would be in the area of pulled pork. Anybody out there have an opinion about this method?

#11 NulloModo

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Posted 08 April 2005 - 09:47 AM

Corned been is pink because of the nitrates, right? So couldn't you toss some sodium nitrate in with your kosher salt to make a corned ham pink as well?
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#12 fifi

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Posted 08 April 2005 - 04:00 PM

I think the idea is that with just salt, the porkiness comes through.
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#13 Varmint

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 06:29 AM

Michael Ruhlman in the "So you want to write a cookbook" discussion indicated that he rarely used recipes, with some exceptions:

issues of basic technique regarding how food behaves, things that distinguish common preparations, the differences in recipes for the same thing, custard say, or using egg whites to leaven something rather than a chemical leavener; i love personality in the recipes and writing. i like baking recipes because I because I have no natural feel for baking, and i like recipes for things that people buy instead of make anymore, bacon and corned beef, chocolate pudding and cake.


I responded by saying,

Or recipes for items that have never been commercially available and are common only in certan areas, such as corned ham.


Michael wanted to know more about corned ham, so I've started a discussion here on this.

I don't know the complete history of corned ham, but I had it last winter for the first time at Chapel Hill's Crook's Corner. The chef at Crook's, my friend Bill Smith, informed me that corned ham was a traditional holiday dish in Eastern North Carolina (he's from New Bern, NC). It's characterized by its simplicity: salt is packed in and around a whole ham for a couple of weeks. No added seasonings, just salt.

When I tasted this at Crook's, it was pork crack. The small amount I ate was so rich, so pure, that I thought I'd never taste a bit of pork as perfect as this. It made such an impression on me that Bill has agreed to make one for me this Christmas. I intend to gain a lot of weight this winter.

Here's Bill's recipe that I've adapted from his new cookbook, Seasoned in the South: Recipes from Crook's Corner and from Home :

One whole, fresh ham (about 20 pounds)
One to two pounds of salt

Rinse and dry the ham. Cut incisions in the meat at each place where a bone protrudes from the ham. Pack the cuts with salt and then then coat the entire ham with a thin layer of salt.

Place the ham in a stainless steel or glass container, cover, and refrigerate for a minimum of eleven days up to a maxiumum of three weeks. Two weeks is the norm. Be sure to turn the ham from time to time, pouring off any juice that may have leached out, and re-rub any bare patches with salt.

The day before cooking the ham, wash it, rinse out the salt pockets, and soak in cold water overnight.

Drain and dry the ham. Place in a roasting pan on a rack. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes per pound (yes, it'll take awhile) until a thermometer reads 160 degrees at the bone. Remove cover, increase oven temperature to 375, and cook for 15 minutes more to brown the top. Let rest an hour before slicing.
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#14 Michael Ruhlman

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 06:58 AM

so this is simply salted fresh ham.

how does it differ from freshly roasted leg?

and is sodium nitrite ever used (is done in corned beef)?

#15 fifi

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 01:36 PM

Now I know what I am doing for Thanksgiving. When Varmint proclaims something "pork crack" I sit up and take notice. :biggrin:

Now come the inevitable questions.

Does this have to be done with the whole ham? I have a couple of recipes with fresh ham and I have been going to my Asian market to get these beautiful shank portion hams. They run about 10 to 12 pounds. That would be more manageable for the number of mouths that I am likely to feed and my fridge space.

Can we assume that you are using kosher salt or is pickling salt more the norm? Does it matter?

Is the ham corned with the skin on? If so, do you score the skin before cooking? Skin it before cooking?

I am sure I will think of more as I go along. :raz:
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

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#16 Michael Ruhlman

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 01:48 PM

I'm not in NC or an expert in corned pork, but you should be able to use any part of the leg or shoulder. always use kosher salt for something like this. the skin is loaded with gelatin so keep it on. after it's cooked, it can be fried or baked crispy. and i would think it would be better to cook this thing longer at a lower temperature, but that depends on the final texture you want.

i'll bet varmint loved it because it was from a really good hog.

this cannot be pork crack. pork belly confit that is then deep fried is pork crack.

#17 Chris Amirault

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 02:11 PM

Does this have to be done with the whole ham? I have a couple of recipes with fresh ham and I have been going to my Asian market to get these beautiful shank portion hams. They run about 10 to 12 pounds. That would be more manageable for the number of mouths that I am likely to feed and my fridge space.

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You don't have a pork fridge, Linda? What's up with that?

Meanwhile, Dean, can you be a bit more specific about what you mean by

Cut incisions in the meat at each place where a bone protrudes from the ham.


I'm having a hard time visualizing that.
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#18 Ktepi

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 02:28 PM

My butcher just started carrying fresh picnics (I've had a rough time finding decent pork since moving here) -- I'm absolutely making a corned ham for Christmas. If I'm able to get kale in December, too, Santa can just go on ahead and skip my chimney.

Thanks Varmint.

#19 fifi

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 02:34 PM

I'm not in NC or an expert in corned pork, but you should be able to use any part of the leg or shoulder.  always use kosher salt for something like this.  the skin is loaded with gelatin so keep it on.  after it's cooked, it can be fried or baked crispy.  and i would think it would be better to cook this thing longer at a lower temperature, but that depends on the final texture you want.

i'll bet varmint loved it because it was from a really good hog.

this cannot be pork crack.  pork belly confit that is then deep fried is pork crack.

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I agree on the longer slower cooking. My family likes the melting tender version of pork. The only exception is the lean roasts like loin or tenderloin that I do to 140F internal temp.

Pork belly confit? Fried? I smell another pork thread. :biggrin:


You don't have a pork fridge, Linda? What's up with that?

Meanwhile, Dean, can you be a bit more specific about what you mean by

Cut incisions in the meat at each place where a bone protrudes from the ham.


I'm having a hard time visualizing that.

View Post


No pork fridge in the apartment. :raz: But I'm working on it. :biggrin:

I am having trouble visualizing the cuts as well. On the shank portion, the only bone protruding is the end of the shank. The other end is a cut face so I don't think you would have to do anything to get the salt in there. That is partly what prompted me to ask about the skin. The cuts at the bone seem to be there to "let the salt in" or something like that. The skin might also block salt diffusion.

Details. Details. Details.
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#20 CtznCane

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 02:36 PM

My butcher just started carrying fresh picnics (I've had a rough time finding decent pork since moving here) -- I'm absolutely making a corned ham for Christmas.  If I'm able to get kale in December, too, Santa can just go on ahead and skip my chimney. 

Thanks Varmint.

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I think this has me targeting Corned Ham for X-mas as well. This could start a trend. What kind of Ham is best to start with? What source would one use for the Ham? I've ordered hams from Burger's and Scott's in the past.
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#21 Michael Ruhlman

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 06:22 PM

don't buy cured hams. pls buy fresh pork, a cut called picnic ham (front leg), back leg or shoulder butt (above the picnic), preferably from farm raised hogs.

#22 woodburner

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Posted 29 October 2005 - 02:45 PM

This sounds very tempting to me, but I'm having trouble producing a visual in my mind regarding incisions around the bone and packing with salt part. Hopefully someone will post a few images for us to see how it's done.

In the mean time, I've done just a bit of poking around, and found this article

Hog killing, Salting down the meat

I've heard of folks "dry packing" meat, but in our part of the world, everybody used a wet packing process. That is, we packed the meat in dry salt, but we always prepared a barrel full of liquid pickle to pour in the vat or barrel immediately after packing the meat. The pickling solution was simply water mixed with enough salt that a hen egg would float on it. Put an egg in water and see if it floats. Nope, it won't. But add enough salt and it will.

A twenty pound fresh ham, as the original recipe suggests would be difficult for me to procure. Somthing a bit smaller will be easy for me to find, so I'm going to take a shot at the wet cure method, for documentation purposes only.


woodburner

#23 Ktepi

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Posted 04 November 2005 - 06:31 PM

Bought my ham today, just under 20 pounds. Butcher's hanging onto it until December so I don't have to worry about keeping the freezer nigh-empty. I only just made room in there after buying a three-legged goat in August.

Googling around, I found a lot of references to corned ham as the necessary ingredient in a stuffed ham popular in Maryland, and this blog entry -- http://www.jimandchr...01_archive.html -- which has a photo of a ham that sounds like it was wet-cured. Either my screen is too small -- or my eyes too mumblemumble -- for me to tell if the skin's on, but it looks like it.

It's going to be hard to resist the urge to add some kind of seasoning to that salt, but I'll try.

#24 fifi

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Posted 04 November 2005 - 06:37 PM

I looked at that site and I think the skin is on it. I noticed that they did the low slow cooking like I would probably do.

I just looked at the calendar and it appears that I will have to get some answers soon if I am going to be able to do this for Thanksgiving.

I would resist adding seasoning. I think the idea is to end up with pure pork goodness. Yes . . . I know that will be hard. I am similarly tempted. Get thee behind me evil cajun mix! :laugh:
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#25 Ktepi

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Posted 04 November 2005 - 07:08 PM

I would resist adding seasoning. I think the idea is to end up with pure pork goodness. Yes . . . I know that will be hard. I am similarly tempted. Get thee behind me evil cajun mix! :laugh:

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At least I'm not alone. We've been making a lot of "lamb ham" -- leg of lamb cured with Morton's Tender Quick -- and I really like the combination of TQ, brown sugar, smoked paprika, and cayenne. I just have to keep telling myself this is a different sort of ham, and that tinkering should be deferred to the second or third time anyway.

Besides, come to think of it, I'm really curious about how the pan drippings are going to turn out, and seasoning would mess with that.

#26 fifi

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 09:33 AM

. . . . .
Besides, come to think of it, I'm really curious about how the pan drippings are going to turn out, and seasoning would mess with that.

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Good point about the pan drippings. I hadn't thought of that. The drippings might get salty. I have had this happen with brined turkey and chicken. The meat is fine but the drippings get concentrated. Here is what I have done: Pour off fat and liquid (if any) and reserve. Gently rinse the fond in the pan with a bit of cold water, letting it sit a while. When I say gently, I mean that you are trying to leach salt out without removing the browned bits. For this to work, you need to let the pan cool before adding the cold water. You pour off that water and discard. If a lot of browned bits are coming lose, you can pour through a strainer and reserve. Add back some unsalted stock, reheat and stir to incorporate the fond. Taste for salt and add back any juice you may have reserved if you can. At this point, you can make a light roux with the reserved fat in a separate pan and use that for thickening if you like.

I have used that technique to salvage what looked like a lovely carpet of fond but was, alas, much too salty. The whole idea is that salt will dissove preferentially in the water. If you use cool water in a cool pan, you will lessen the amount of flavor components that leach out. This is a bit fiddly but is the only way I know to get a pretty darn good pan gravy out of salty fond.

YOIKS! I just checked the calendar. If you are thinking about this for Thanksgiving action begins next week in order to get two weeks corning time.

Nov 7-8 buy ham
Nov 9 in the fridge to corn
Nov 9-23 check on ham to drain and resalt where necessary
Nov 23 rinse ham and put in cold water in the fridge
Nov 24 (early am) put on to bake
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#27 Ktepi

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 11:27 AM

I have used that technique to salvage what looked like a lovely carpet of fond but was, alas, much too salty. The whole idea is that salt will dissove preferentially in the water. If you use cool water in a cool pan, you will lessen the amount of flavor components that leach out. This is a bit fiddly but is the only way I know to get a pretty darn good pan gravy out of salty fond.

YOIKS! I just checked the calendar. If you are thinking about this for Thanksgiving action begins next week in order to get two weeks corning time.

Nov 7-8 buy ham
Nov 9 in the fridge to corn
Nov 9-23 check on ham to drain and resalt where necessary
Nov 23 rinse ham and put in cold water in the fridge
Nov 24 (early am) put on to bake

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Oh excellent, thank you -- I wondered about the salt and had figured that maybe I'd have to dilute the drippings with cream gravy, for instance -- but your technique is better.

I'm making the ham for Christmas, so I'm all set timing-wise -- I almost wish I were doing turkey for Christmas and the ham for Thanksgiving, so I could use the fat from the ham to rub the turkey with (Rosengarten's turkey uses prosciutto fat, doesn't it?). But it doesn't work out that way.

#28 budrichard

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 07:34 AM

Generally a lttle saltpeter (sodium nitrite) is added to keep the color from turning gray if using a wet corning method. -Dick

#29 fifi

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 09:29 AM

. . . . .
I'm making the ham for Christmas, so I'm all set timing-wise -- I almost wish I were doing turkey for Christmas and the ham for Thanksgiving, so I could use the fat from the ham to rub the turkey with (Rosengarten's turkey uses prosciutto fat, doesn't it?).  But it doesn't work out that way.

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Just save it to rub a chicken. Rosengarten also does roasted chicken rubbed with goose fat and a lot of salt that is spectacular. Pork fat can't hurt.
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#30 Michael Ruhlman

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Posted 10 November 2005 - 03:37 PM

Generally a lttle saltpeter (sodium nitrite) is added to keep the color from turning gray if using a wet corning method. -Dick

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sodium nitrite is now sold under various names--butcher-packer.com sells it cheapest and best.

saltpeter is postassium nitrate, a different salt that isn't used much in the states anymore. Nitrates are required to prevent botulism in dry-cured sauages.

nitrite is not needed for this kind of pork preparation, but it will keep it bright pink and give the pork a distinclty hammy flavor.

Edited by Michael Ruhlman, 10 November 2005 - 03:38 PM.