March 2, 2006

Smells like victory

«filed under savory-smelling»
Twisting the leg off was definitely the best part. I felt like somebody on Grey’s Anatomy except I was in my kitchen, not a hospital, and my hands were covered in grease instead of rubber gloves. Oh I would have given anything for rubber gloves. Two weeks ago when my editor gave me a 14-pound Smithfield-style ham, I knew preparing it would a beast, but I had no idea how ridiculous it would be.

It all started with Bill asking me whether or not I liked ham. Of course I do. I prefer honey-baked, but who am I to look a gift ham like that in the mouth. He’d gotten this unsolicited piece of meat a few days earlier and since then his office had taken on a distinctly savory smell. Not a nuance, but a clear salty, fatty, hammy smell. So he wanted it gone and I was the guy to get rid of it.

After riding home with it clutched to my chest (god only knows what everyone around me thought), I read the instructions and the reality of what I’d gotten myself into started to sink in. The included information was contradictory at best: it came in a “Refrigerate Immediately” box, but the instructions made it clear that I could either have a cooked ham or an uncooked ham, neither of which was supposed to be refrigerated at all (though I could hang it in a cool dark place for up to twelve months). Oh, and I wasn’t supposed to put it in a plastic bag.

I called my Aunt Donna, a real live southerner, and she told me to soak it for three days, changing the water each day, then boil it for 5 hours. I don’t have a pot that big, so I put it in a plastic bag in my closet. The next morning, all of my clothes had the saltyfattyhammy smell so I took it out of the bag and put it in the refrigerator until this past Sunday.

When the flatmates got tired of it taking up most of the refrigerator, I washed out my nationalized W&M recycling bin and started soaking the ham. I was quite relieved to find no mold. According to the instructions, “mold is a very common characteristic with real country hams, just as it is with cheese. Just brush, wash, or trim away the mold. It does not damage the ham.” I don’t think I have to go into why I would have been upset to find mold.

As each day passed the ham looked more like, well, a ham and less gross shit accumulated on the surface. Yesterday was the big day. I started this post with the most exciting bit, though I was upset to lose the bone. I sliced about ¼ last night and another ¼ tonight; it’s really tiring but at least I’m getting better at it. I nearly forgot to explain that I was not going to follow Aunt Donna’s instructions, as I didn’t have a big enough pot. Since I usually pan fry ham steaks anyway, I figured I’d do that.

So tonight for my first ham dinner, I made Ham Steak with Brown Sugar and Lime Glaze, Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Butter and Nutmeg, and broccoli. The ham was salty for sure, but not completely gross. It was the kind of thing that grew on you as you ate it. That’s at least what Meg said. I agree. The butternut squash, though, rocked. I forgot to take pictures but it wasn’t pretty.

Bill asked me to bring him some, but I want to make sure I don’t die first. I'll know in about an hour.

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