Bill Smith's Corned Ham
Excerpted from Seasoned in the South: Recipes from Crook’s Corner and From Home by Bill Smith (Algonquin Books). Watch for this and other recipes from the holiday special to be posted at the “A Chef’s Life” website.
1 16-20 lb. ham
2 lbs. kosher salt
Ask your butcher for a fresh ham. This is easier said than done these days since supermarkets mainly sell ready-to-eat hams. It is much better if the ham is really fresh because ones that have been frozen, no matter how carefully they are thawed, seem to be tough. Rinse and dry the ham. There are three places where the bone protrudes; at each end and one side near the hip end. Use a sharp knife to make incisions of about 3 inches deep along all three. Fill the incisions with salt (I use kosher salt but my teacher used plain Morton’s table salt). Rub the outside of the ham all over with more salt. You want to cover the ham lightly, but you don’t want to make a paste of the salt. Place the ham in a non-reactive pan, cover with plastic wrap then aluminum foil and refrigerate. Cure for about 11 days. All you have to do during the curing period is turn the ham from time to time, rerub it with salt, and pour off any juice that the ham has produced as it cures.
The day before you plan to cook the ham, wash it under cold running water. Be sure to flush out the salt pockets. Then submerge under clean cold water overnight.
Set the oven to 325 degrees. Put the ham on a rack in a covered roasting pan and bake for 20 minutes a pound. The internal temperature should reach 150 degrees for safety reasons, but I like to cook these hams until they start to fall off the bone. About 1 1/2 hours before the ham is done, remove cover and raise the oven to 375 degrees so the ham will brown. For the last 10 minutes or so, I lift off the carapace of skin and set it beside the ham in the roasting pan. It will crisp up into the best cracklings ever.
People will stand around the platter picking long after dinner is done. More than once, after everyone has gone home, I’ve discovered a platter of bones.
At Crook’s Corner, we serve this ham with mashed potatoes with pan juices poured over both.
Photo of Bill Smith and Chef Vivian Howard from filming of “A Chef’s Life Holiday Special” for PBS by Josh Woll.