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    The Low Carb Luxury Online Magazine  
 
    December 18, 2003    PAGE 11       > About LCL Magazine      > Cover Page      > Inside Cover      Feature Pages:   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12    

 
Featured Articles
 Photographs: Proof of Life?
 The Perfect Gift
 A Homemade Christmas
 Jo Cordi's  Lifestyle Series
 Snapshot: Ruby Tuesday
 Baking Up Holiday Sweets
 Wrench That Stole Christmas
 But For The Grace of God
 Travel: Memories of Madrid
 Party Food!
 Cooking with Jarret Hughes
 Holiday Treats or Traps?


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  Ham for the Holidays by Jarret Hughes


Jarret Hughes has held numerous cooking positions at cafes, diners, and family restaurants. He takes a "keep it simple" attitude toward cooking, preferring olive oil to truffle oil. Jarret strives to inform readers about the history of various foods while offering professional advice regarding food purchase and preparation.


                    "Eternity is a ham and two people."
                                                        Dorothy Parker



Thank goodness. I finally polished off the remainder of my 20-pound Thanksgiving turkey about a week ago. Donít get me wrong. I love turkey. However, I have a very low tolerance for leftovers. I grew up in a household that seemed to always have leftovers. Iím sure my mom cooked an original meal every once in a while, but it always appeared that she cooked one meal the whole family could eat for a week straight.

Once I grew up and started cooking for myself, I vowed never to eat leftovers for more than three days in a row. Therefore, cooking another turkey for Christmas would just be creating more leftovers ó Iíd be eating turkey well into the new year! Instead, Iím opening a whole new can of worms. Iím trading in my turkey leftovers in for a fresh batch of ham leftovers. If eternity is a ham and two people, just think of how long it will take me to get rid of all those leftovers solo!

There are two basic types of hams: city (also known as ďurbanĒ) and country. While both types of ham come from the same part of the hog (the hind leg), the processing method and taste of each type of ham is very different.

City Hams:

Almost all hams that you find in the grocery store are city hams. The name comes from how the ham is processed and not where the pig grew up. City hams are usually sold fully or partially cooked, and have been cured with brine made from water, salt, and preservatives (nitrites and other chemicals). Brines can also contain a small amount of sugar, so be sure to check the ingredient list. Most city hams have not been aged or smoked (or smoked very little). Since little processing is required, these are the cheapest hams you can find.

There are really only a few things you need to think about while buying your holiday city ham:

1. Look for a ham that has not been honey cured or sugar cured. If you are strictly prohibiting your consumption of sweeteners, you may want to pass on these types of hams. Keep in mind that hams that arenít labeled as honey cured or sugar cured can still contain these sweeteners. However, the sweetener should only be present in small amounts and it not be easily detected by the pallet.

2. Choose a ham with bones. There are three primary types of ham: boneless, partially boned, or bone-in. Itís true that boneless hams can be much more convenient to carve. However, I recommend buying either the partially boned or bone-in varieties. You will find that the flavor of a ham with at least some bones remaining is far superior to a boneless ham.

3. Beware of canned hams. Most canned hams are actually pork parts that are pressed together with gelatin to in the shape of the can. Unless you grew up on canned hams and actually like the taste of them, I wouldnít suggest wasting your hard-earn money on a canned ham. And I certainly wouldnít recommend one for the holidays!

City hams certainly make for a fine meal. However, if you want a special treat, I suggest buying a country ham from your butcher, specialty store, or online.

Country Hams:

If you can get your hands on a country ham, I highly recommend them. Country hams can cost quite a bit more than city hams, but, for special occasions, they are well worth the cost. One of the most popular varieties is the Smithfield ham. Your butcher should have no problems ordering a country ham for you, but there are also several online sites that sell country hams. The Smithfield Collection is an excellent place to start shopping for a country ham.

In contrast to city hams, country hams are dry cured for several months (usually 6-12 months). In other words, instead of injecting liquid into the ham, country hams actually lose weight due to the drying process. This creates a much more concentrated ham flavor.

Due to this drying process, however, special care must be taken when preparing uncooked country hams. After drying in a sack for several months, country hams usually develop mold on their surface. This is nothing to worry about, but the mold must be scrubbed off prior to cooking the ham. Simply take a brush (that old potato brush that you donít use anymore will work great!) and scrub your ham gently under lukewarm water. Again, country hams are a little more work than city hams, but the result is worth it!

Country ham should be soaked in water for 24-48 hours to remove some of the saltiness from the dry curing process and to bring some moisture back into the ham. Simply place the ham in a large stockpot or cooler, fill it with cold water so the entire ham is covered, and replace the cold water a few times (otherwise your ham will sit in warm, salty water, defeating the whole purpose of this process.) Once your country ham has had its bath, it is ready to cook. Of course, if all of this sounds like too much work, there are also several fully cooked country hams available.

Cooking Ham:

Ham is very easy to cook. Simply place the ham in a large roasting pan and add any seasonings that you like. Many people like to stick whole cloves into their ham and smother it in brown sugar prior to baking. These days, I usually omit all spices and sugar and cook my ham plain. Bake the ham at 325į F until it reaches an internal temperature of 135į F to 140į F.

Remove the ham from the oven and let it rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing. Since ham is generally very salty, it is best to slice it as thin as possible. A big, thick slice of ham can be a bit overwhelming to many people.

Whether you decide to cook ham, turkey, or something entirely different for your holiday meal, be sure to look around the table and be thankful for all that you have in your life. Many people arenít nearly as lucky.

Happy holidays!

             

               Happy Holidays!!

                            

Copyright © December 2003  Jarret Hughes and Low Carb Luxury
Title photo Copyright © 2003  Neil Beaty and Low Carb Luxury





       

 
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