The marketing was effective, I must admit. It even convinced me. A large boneless ham, raised on a small farm, from a heritage breed, cured in a traditional manner, smoked over hickory wood. And at a bargain price! The ham was fully cooked, which meant I could reheat it slowly in a low oven. Easy.
When the ham arrived, and was thawed, I started to take off the reddish brown wrap. As I started to remove it, I realized that the wrap was clear. The ham itself was covered with a dried coating, reddish brown in color, which had the consistency of sawdust glued together. Netting lines were deeply sunk all over the ham, from the netting that was used when it was hung to smoke.
I began to realize that the coating around the ham was the ham itself, what the outside of the roast had turned into, with not a single shred of fat in evidence. In mounting horror, I came to realize that all fat had been trimmed off the ham before smoking. With no fat to keep it moist, the ham had dried out in the smoking process, and lost most of its moisture. I stuck a fork in the ham, it met a lot of resistance. The meat was tough.
I sliced off a small outside piece of the ham and tasted it. The outside meat tasted terrible, with a horrid texture of sawdust. The interior meat was dry, so dry. Hardly any smoke flavor. Chewy, not tender at all. Not good. But there was a hint of a good pork flavor in there.
My family was expecting a nice meal. I decided to save the ham.
A plan was needed. I decided to cover the ham in organic apple juice, and marinate it for a few hours. This should add moisture and flavor. Then, I would add fat and heat it slowly in front of a smoky barbecue fire, at very low heat. This would add the smoke flavor it should have had. And I would restore the fat to the meat, by putting some sliced pork fat from another roast over the top of the ham.
I did not know if this would work, but I was going to give it my best.
But first, that sawdust-like outer coating had to be trimmed off and discarded. I took a sharp knife and trimmed the whole thing, getting off every scrap of the outside. I placed the ham in a glass bowl, poured the apple juice over it, and set it to marinate.
A couple of hours later, I stated a barbecue fire, using some hickory. I brought the temperature up to about 225 degrees. I placed the ham on a rack in a pan, covered the top with sliced pork fat, and set it to smoke. Several hours later, I boiled down the apple juice used for the marinade, until three-quarters of the liquid was gone, and used it to baste the ham occasionally. I was encouraged when I stuck a fork into the meat—it felt much more tender than before. I continued cooking until the roast had been reheated.
Then I started slicing it in the dining room. The knife glided easily through the tender meat. There was a wonderful wood smoke smell. The ham was moist, tender, and so delicious that it was hard to stop eating it. A disaster had become a wonderful meal. The inherent wonderful flavor of the heritage pork had been unlocked deliciously, once fat and moisture had been restored.
This post is part of Fat Tuesday blog carnival.
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