Since Easter is quickly approaching, I’ve been thinking about ham.
Ham is a cut from the hind leg of a pig and is usually a cured product, although there is such a thing as fresh ham. Dry cured ham is salted and stored until the salt penetrates and dehydrates the meat (just like last week’s recipe, salmon gravlax). Some hams are pickled, which entails soaking the meat in acidic brine. You will often find sugar-cured ham made with this brine method. Mass produced hams are usually injected with brine. Some hams are smoked after curing, a process that further preserves and adds considerable flavor.
Ham is an ancient food. It is thought to have been originated by the European Celts (known to the Romans as Gauls) as early as the 6th century B.C. Living around salt deposits, they would have discovered the preservation properties of salt and used it on many kinds of meats, including regional wild boar. Romans were known to covet these hams, and eventually incorporated the preparations into their own cuisine. The ham of Parma and prosciutto are two famous examples of their culinary thievery.
Cured hams are fully cooked, and need only be heated to serve. There are numerous glazes that one can slather over a ham, but it is the pure and simple flavor of the cure that I look forward to. Sliced thin and stacked between two sliced of light rye, with a little mustard … that’s how I roll.
If, like me, you enjoy a big ham around Easter, here is a classic recipe for Deviled Ham to help you use up the leftovers. Use it for sandwiches or serve it on a bed of lettuce for a tasty luncheon dish.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 stalk celery, diced fine
3 scallions, minced
2 tablespoons flat leaf (Italian) parsley, minced
2 cups finely minced ham
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Tabasco to taste
In a large bowl combine mayonnaise, mustard, celery, scallions, parsley, and mix well. Add ham, pepper, Tabasco, and stir to combine. That’s it. Not everything delicious needs to be complicated!