When I was growing up in a small North Carolina town in the 1960s, finding a really good country ham for Christmas dinner was an annual tradition.

We would pile into the car and drive out to the country to some old farm, where rows upon rows of hams hung from the smokehouse rafters.  Then, with the day’s catch safely tucked under my grand father’s arm, we would head for home and some great meals.

Although today a ham is more likely to come from a supermarket, you still need to know how to choose a good country ham and cook it properly.

Country ham is the term given any ham which has been dry cured, usually with a mixture of salt and sugar r. Before refrigeration, curing and drying were the only methods available for keeping meats from spoiling.
Some hams are also smoked, depending on the manufacturer.

Almost every culture has a type of cured ham. In Italy, this type of ham is called prosciutto, and is served as an appetizer before pasta. The German Westphalian ham is another cousin to the noble country ham.

A country ham should have a nice salty taste.,  Look for a ham that smells fresh and has firm flesh. To cut down on some of the salt, soak the ham for at least 2 hours in cold water.  After soaking, scrub it thoroughly  with a soft brush to remove any mold.

Although the most popular way to cook a country ham is to slice it thin and pan-fry the slices, they are also very good baked. To bake a country ham,  put it skin side up in a deep roasting pan and fill the pan with water so that it comes half-way over the ham. . Some folks like to use wine or cider or champagne–in Georgia a lot of folks use Coca-cola, but I just use water mixed with a little brown sugar. Some folks tell you to put the skin down, but I like to keep the skin up and let the ham rest on the hip bone.

Don’t let the ham boil– this will make it tough. You want it just to simmer, slowly, with a tight-fitting lid in about a 300 degree oven, or over low heat on the [Image] top of the stove. Cooking time will vary depending [Image] 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.

Be careful not to over-cook.  . A lot of people  over-cook ham. They’ll let it set for hours in the pan after it’s cooked, the way Grandma used to do. The problem with this is that the ham 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”.

Country ham can be served any  way possible- hot, cold, or at room temperature, sliced in paper-thin slices.  Even though it’s not something you’d want to eat every day, It’s a wonderful treat for those special lazy Sunday mornings.


Baked Country Ham with Orange Juice and Brown Sugar Glaze

Southern Pan-fried Quail With Country Ham

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