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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Meat Month: Smoked Ham

This season, Acorn Acres Farm (formerly Welcome to My Garden) had a surplus of hams. They had a good stock of hogs and butchered them starting in November. They stocked up on hams, which definitely suits the need for a warming winter meal or Easter Hams. When I bought my hams, they were running a sale on bulk ham purchases (5 or more). They had both smaller and larger hams, so you can get one for weekday sandwiches or for a big feast.

The taste is delicious and after it's slow roasted, the meat falls off the bone. Since it's fresh from the farm store there is still some nourishing marrow in the bone. It's not all dried out.

Like all of their livestock, the hogs were raised on organic feed, in large pens, with access to hay and shelter during the winter months. They foraged for roots and grubs. They ate vines, leaves, and bark. The ones that were raised in the forest pen enjoyed the acorns when the fell in the fall. 

The meats are smoked by Stahly using no nitrates or nitrites in their curing process. This might be why they are a little more salty, but I'd rather a hearty salt cure than spoiled meat! Do note, that I generally am not one to salt my food much, so that colors my opinion. 

This was the first Acorn Acres Farm ham that I've cooked this season. It was wrapped in thick butcher paper and thick plastic to protect it from freezer burn and to keep it fresh. It had a rich brownish-red smoked crust surrounding a light tan meat. It had little fat and was dry, not greasy at all. It had a little bright red blood in the wrapper. 

It smelled cured, smoked, and the meat looked so rich. I made a simple, hearty meal to end winter (and hopefully kiss the winter weather good-bye). 

1 Small Yellow Onion
1/2 Head of Green Cabbage
3 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
4 or 5 Whole Juniper Berries
1/4 Red Pepper Flakes (more depending on taste—it intensifies as it stews)
A few grinds of pepper (to taste)
**Note, do not add salt. The salt from the cured meat mixes with the vegetables. **
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°. 
  2. Roughly chop the cabbage, slice up the onion, and put it in the bottom of a large dutch oven. 
  3. Add the ham into the middle of the veg (you may need to adjust the cabbage around it to make it fit).
  4. Add seasonings over the meat and vegetables.
  5. Pour apple cider vinegar around the meat onto the vegetables.
  6. Cook covered  on middle/low rack for 4-6 hrs.
  7. Remove juniper berries, shred meat with spoon, and serve. 
It's cooked so slow and low that you shouldn't have a fear of burning it. At six hours the meat was 210° at the center, but wasn't dry in the least. The liquid from the vegetables and meat form a delicious salty broth. You can serve it over rice, potatoes, or just eat it as is. I ate up the marrow while the rest was cooling. Leftovers are great on a hearty rye or pumpernickel with some swiss melted on top.

Keep in mind the following points when handling raw meat.
  • Always wash your hands and your preparation surface thoroughly before and after touching the meat.
  • Cured meat should be cooked throughout (to an internal temperature of at least 160°).

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