The Perfect Country Ham

From The Great American Meat Book, by Merle Ellis

A country ham should have a nice salty tang, but if you don't soak one long enough, it can be awfully salty! After you've soaked it, scrub it thoroughly to get any mold off, then put it skin side up in a deep roasting pan and cover it about half over with water. Some folks like to use wine or cider or champagne--in Georgia a lot of folks use Coca-cola, but I just use water, some folks tell you to put the skin down, but I like to keep the skin up and let the ham rest on the aitch (hip) bone.

Don't let the ham boil - it will toughen. you want it just to simmer, slowly, with a tight-fitting lid in about a 300 degree oven, or over low heat on the top of the stove. Cooking time will vary depending on the character and age of the ham, but it's done when a thermometer registers the internal temperature at 160 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, you can tell it's done when the aitch bone comes loose.

Don't overcook it. A lot of folks overcook ham. They'll let it set for hours in the pan after it's cooked, the way Grandma used to do, and it just keeps on cooking. When it's done, let it cool just enough so you can handle it, then skin it, and glaze it just as you would a "city ham".

Serve "country ham" hot, cold, or at room temperature, sliced in paper-thin slices. It's a rich and flavorful treat that is well worth the time it takes to prepare.

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