- Nov 26, 2016
- central NC
Easter Sunday is almost here and for many of us that means having ham for dinner. While looking for some recipes, I discovered, ''300 Years of Black Cooking in St. Mary’s County, Md.'' Published in 1976 by the St. Mary’s County bicentennial committee, it is no longer in print, but it described a Civil Era country ham stuffed with spring greens:
''Holidays were days when the jowls were taken out of the smokehouse and distributed to the slaves. Some slaves were allowed to tend small vegetable gardens from which they took such vegetables as greens (kale), cabbage, 'greasy greens' (wild watercress), turnip tops, or any green that was plentiful. The greens were chopped, and stuffed into pockets in the 'jowl' or jaw bones. This was tied up in a rag and boiled until it was tender. When cooled, this made a very tasty meal.''
The best parts of the pig, including the hams, were reserved for the masters, and according to the cookbook, the masters had their hams stuffed in the same fashion. It appears the custom of stuffing hams with greens has not spread far, only from St. Mary’s County to the rest of southern Maryland. ''Stuffed-ham season” was observed from Thanksgiving to Easter.
The combination of wilted greens is supposed to mellow the taste of country ham. The contrast of the green of the stuffing with the pink of the ham in each slice should also make for an attractive presentation.
4 large green cabbages (about 3 pounds each)
3 pounds kale
6 medium onions
1 bunch celery
3 red hot peppercorns or 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons dry mustard or mustard seed
1 (18- to 20-pound) precooked country ham
1. Wash the greens and chop cabbage, kale, celery and onions medium fine. Chop peppercorns finely. Put vegetables and seasonings in large pot with water almost to the top of the vegetables. Bring to a boil; stir. Cover pot and turn heat off. Let vegetables wilt for about 10 minutes. Drain and reserve cooking water. Cool vegetables until you can handle them.
2. Starting on the underside of the ham, make an ''X'' about 1 inch long and between 1/2 and 1 inch deep. Stuff ''X's'' with vegetables until no more will fit in. Continue making ''X's'' as close together as possible all over the ham and stuffing them until you can't find any more places to put holes.
3. Place the ham in a double thickness of cheesecloth. Place any remaining vegetables on top of the ham; tie the cheesecloth into a bag and place in pot with liquid drained from cooking the vegetables and any left in the pan in which the vegetables cooled. Use water to cover the ham with liquid.
4. Cover pot and bring liquid to boil. Reduce heat to soft boil and cook ham about 5 or 6 hours, until tender. Add water as needed to keep ham covered.
5. Cool in cooking liquid in a cool place. Then drain ham for an hour. Remove from bag and slice. Yield: 25 to 30 servings.
NOTES: Southern Maryland cooks use a corned or country ham, but it is possible to use a precooked ham with bone. Ham should be prepared a day ahead. Recipe may be halved, using a 10-pound ham.
Source: Alice Shorter "in a remote part of Maryland"