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arbuclo

Virginia Hams

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I like to soak and smoke country hams. It takes an eternity (18 hours at least to open up the texture, plus you have to cut off the char afterwards), but it's really really good. Then again, I'd love to try one of the better ones raw as well.

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I like to soak and smoke country hams.  It takes an eternity (18 hours at least to open up the texture, plus you have to cut off the char afterwards), but it's really really good.  Then again, I'd love to try one of the better ones raw as well.

As far as I know, I've eaten Virginia hams my whole life mostly raw. Dad would glaze them and bake them for a little while, but mainly just to flavor the outside. I doubt he cooked them long enough to penetrate to the bone. We liked it super salty and sliced paper-thin.

But I'm curious about this smoking technique. Can you describe it further? I'd love to try it.

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their buscuits didn't look at all like my Grandma's -- they were more hamburger bun-shaped, wide and short, than the taller, cylindrical biscuits I'm used to. But, for all I know, they taste great.

please tell me they don't actually LOOK like miniature hamburger buns or rolls - :huh: just maybe shaped like them? :unsure:

when I'm in a hurry and can't make homemade, I confess that I roll out pilsbury in a can and then cut miniature biscuits from it - a far cry from homemade, but not bad in a pinch. (I might get booted off of egullet for this kind of confession). :shock:

If theirs are an upgrade on this, and I don't have to do the cooking or ham stuffing, that would be a huge help.

I just glanced at them, overtired and a smidge hungover, so don't take my word as gospel. But, at a quick glance, they looked more like "rolls" than "biscuits." Of course, it's the texture once you bite into the things that really tells -- yeast versus baking powder. Having not bit, I confess that they may well be lovely. The just didn't look right to me. (my confession: I love the biscuits from Popeye's. Not Grandma's, but pretty tasty.)

Turns out that the biscuits are yeast biscuits, which I regard with great suspicion. More on Calhoun's hams from the Washington Post's article on Culpeper (here):

"Side by side with the new shops and restaurants are classic survivors such as Calhoun's Ham House, which has produced moist, lower-salt country hams for more than four decades. (The White House has ordered 80 Calhoun hams for the holidays.)

"The perfect soft yeast biscuit for Calhoun ham is baked fresh daily at Knakal's Bakery, which opened in 1935."

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But I'm curious about this smoking technique. Can you describe it further? I'd love to try it.

I have a horizontal smoker. I basically build a charcoal fire down one end, put the ham (after the traditional three-days soak) down the other, and smoke until the outer meat on the underside begins to pull apart. The top is gently perfumed, cooked through, and slices easily (after removing the tough skin, which can be used to flavor a pot of beans), the bottom can almost be shredded. Mmmmmm.

ETA: formatting.


Edited by jparrott (log)

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Well, well, well. I got to the Alexandria market on Saturday and managed to get the last Calhoun half ham. It is delicious and definitely reminds me of proscuitto. It is salty like procuitto

So, another question. We're just keeping it raw in the fridge. I've got the cut side down on a chopping board but haven't covered it. Should I? and if so, with what? cloth? plastic? foil?

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On the advice of the guy we bought it from, we kept one ham wrapped in the white butcher's paper it came with, held in place with a rubber band, and it held up fine for weeks. The current ham is jammed into a large plastic bag, that seems to be working, too. I'm not sure it much matters, except the exposed bit can get hard if you don't eat the ham often enough (so get eating!). The chopped side down thing will become untenable as you slice the ham away from the bone, I think just sticking a little plastic over the exposed area will do fine.

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Speaking of yeast biscuits, I just came across a recipe from John Martin Taylor for Ham Biscuits in which the biscuit (often called Angel's or Bride's biscuits) contains both baking powder and yeast, so it's like a cross between a biscuit and a roll. Seems like that would make a good textured "sandwich" for a bite of salty Virginia ham (sugar-cured Turner Ham is my favorite).

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I'm loving all the wonderful suggestions on ham brands. Thanks! Don't worry about my ham just sitting there not getting eaten, we've been nibblin' away. I'll wrap it up ASAP.

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When we butcher, I usually split a hog with someone. But two years ago, I got a whole hog which, of course means two hams. Cooked the second one from two years ago yesterday, in roasting pan with water and 1 liter coke to cover halfway, flipping at halfway point, for 4 hours at 325.

Just had my first slices, have to say it's pretty awesome. The additional year really made a difference. Now, I'm on the two year cycle.

Gotta' go make some biscuits!

Anyone traveling out this way is welcome to stop by, Doug

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When we butcher, I usually split a hog with someone. But two years ago, I got a whole hog which, of course means two hams. Cooked the second one from two years ago yesterday, in roasting pan with water and 1 liter coke to cover halfway, flipping at halfway point, for 4 hours at 325.

Just had my first slices, have to say it's pretty awesome. The additional year really made a difference. Now, I'm on the two year cycle.

Gotta' go make some biscuits!

Anyone traveling out this way is welcome to stop by,  Doug

Do you do your own curing?

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I just received an order from Broadbent Hams. I got six 14 oz packages of bacon, 4 lbs of sausage and an uncooked county ham. I've been eating breakfast all weekend.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with the ham. I would like to try it raw. If I do take some slices off, should I soak it first? Can I still simmer and cook the rest?

By the way, will I be able to slice this with a slicer, or do I need a band saw?

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BB, yes we cure our own hams.

We start a dawn, so the primal cuts are usually done by 8. The hams are left to cool for several hours. They're next packed (just spread and pressed on) with the salt/brown sugar/ pepper mixture - we use the Morton's premixed, about 1 5 lb. bag per ham and then placed on slatted shelves in the ham house. For the first week or so, they're looked at a couple of times and the cure is repacked if it's fallen off. Then just leave them alone - we don't smoke them.

They just sit until April or May when we spread(pat) borax on, put them in bags (old pillow cases work well) and hang them. They stay hung until ready to use - as I mentioned above, I'm now on the two year cycle with mine.

We also make what the locals call summer sausage. Some of the regular sausage is stuffed in bladders (about 6 - 8" diam) and tied off. These balls are then placed in a plastic tray of the Mortons cure and rotated every once in a while for a few weeks, Then they're hung until summer. Some folks around here eat them raw - thinly sliced - but most prefer to simmer gently for an hour or so as thay are very salty.

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I just received an order from Broadbent Hams.  I got six 14 oz packages of bacon, 4 lbs of sausage and an uncooked county ham.  I've been eating breakfast all weekend. 

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with the ham.  I would like to try it raw.  If I do take some slices off, should I soak it first?  Can I still simmer and cook the rest?

By the way, will I be able to slice this with a slicer, or do I need a band saw?

Others may know better, but I'd just slice off a piece and see if wasn't too salty to eat. If it wasn't, I'd get eating, and if it was I'd soak it it and cook it.

I don't see why you couldn't slice some off for raw eating and then soak and cook the rest. I think you should do all of this and post back.

I think you might need a band saw if you're going to cut through the bone. I just slice it off with a knife, leaving the bone intact, which makes it hard to get a good ham steak but doesn't bother me.

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BB, yes we cure our own hams.

We start a dawn, so the primal cuts are usually done by 8. The hams are left to cool for several hours. They're next packed (just spread and pressed on) with the salt/brown sugar/ pepper mixture -  we use the Morton's premixed, about 1 5 lb. bag per ham and then placed on slatted shelves in the ham house. For the first week or so, they're looked at a couple of times and the cure is repacked if it's fallen off. Then just leave them alone - we don't smoke them.

They just sit until April or May when we spread(pat) borax on, put them in bags (old pillow cases work well) and hang them. They stay hung until ready to use - as I mentioned above, I'm now on the two year cycle with mine.

We also make what the locals call summer sausage. Some of the regular sausage is stuffed in bladders (about 6 - 8" diam) and tied off. These balls are then placed in a plastic tray of the Mortons cure and rotated every once in a while for a few weeks, Then they're hung until summer. Some folks around here eat them raw - thinly sliced - but most prefer to simmer gently for an hour or so as thay are very salty.

Well -- we usually get through Luray a couple of times a year. The Busboy family "secret" swimming hole is just off that two lane that connects Luray and Front Royal in the general vicinity of Limeton, so we usually pass through town going one direction or the other (I hate driving out and back by the same route). Maybe we'll drop by and try to talk some of that sausage out of sausage next summer.

Or we can come out and hel next spring, and help with the hams. Not that I expect that we'd be particularly useful, but I've found that the kind of people who cure their own hams are often pretty amused by the antics of city kids trying to be helpful around the farm. :biggrin:

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BB, I'm a transplanted city boy - Alexandria. My dad's side of the family is from Culpeper, so I spent a lot of time there in my youth. We've been down here 6 years. Very fortunate that the first two friends we made here were the president of the bank, and the sheriff.

It's the sheriff who we butcher with. He's not a farmer, but has a keen interest in keeping the old ways going. The butchering is a great experience, from a social and community aspect as well as the food side. Lot's of folks come to help (and drink), just to keep those old ways alive for one day a year.

I'll try to save you a pan of scrapple.

Best, Doug Davis

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Walter Nichols -- who seems to be spending a lot of time in the Old Dominion these days -- weighs in with a nice piece on Ron Turner's Turner Ham House's efforts to turn wean gourmets off their serrano and proscuitto, and sell them cheap, plentiful and delicious Virginia Ham in today's Post Food Section. Hams available at 540-896-7487 and on line.

(And Ron, if you're reading this, let Candace Cansler, executive director of the Conover, N.C.-based National Country Ham Association, know that we proscuitto-eaters are not going to line to wrap something called "Premium USA Hams" around our melon balls. Sounds like a pickup truck ad (note that we like pick-up trucks but we don't drive them) or, worse yet, some kind of weird election year hoo-ha. We're sensitive to the notion that plain old "Country Ham" isn't bringing in the big bucks (though I have one in my fridge), but try "Handmade American Ham," "Artisanal American Ham," "Traditional Virginia Pork"...something that evokes timeless quality and all that, not generic boosterism. Good luck!)

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Smithfield's Charles Henry Gray ham is awesome. We received a whole one at work for Christmas and divvied it up - I got the most meat and the bone!! Very good, not too salty, nice and sweet. It also came very thinly sliced, which is nice. Here's the description from the Smithfield Web site; supposedly it is a very limited production ($160.00 plus shipping!):

"A fully cooked, hand sliced delicacy - made from the Luter's Genuine Smithfield Ham and seasoned with a secret family recipe developed by Mr. Charles Henry Gray, who prepared his "party ham" for only a select few - and those fortunate enough were truly impressed. His method has been entrusted to another Smithfield associate who zealously guards the secret recipe and prepares these special hams just as he would have today. And you, too, can share the "ultimate ham experience" with your friends - if you want to truly impress! Each ham weighs between 10 and 13 lbs. upon shipment."

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