(At Least In The Kitchen)
Admit it. Sometimes you want all the benefits without any strings attached. You want pleasure without subsequent effort. You know who you are (and so do I).
You don’t order ham.
Ham epitomizes what we love about pork —the sweet, smoky character of cured meat, hugged in a savory layer of fat, revealing richer treasures of taste as you near the bone. Ham can take center stage in some of the best meals shared with family and friends. Ham often ranks behind bacon and some sausages for pure flavor reward, but when you cook the latter two, the joy ends with the meal. Just try to find a recipe for leftover bacon. Ham, on the other hand, is the cut that keeps on giving.
When we cook a ham, we only eat part of it for dinner. Then I’ll carve stacks of slices, keeping some for immediate use and wrapping a few packs for the freezer. Then I cube some pieces to go in omelets and cube some more for Rigatoni Modo Mio (Pasta with cauliflower and ham) from Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Cookbook. The odd cut offs get ground for ham salad.* The bone with some meat still on it goes into beans or lentils. It doesn't have to be immediate. It can all be frozen and used later. Either way, cooking a ham begins a short-term relationship that gives you a week’s worth of meals.
But maybe you don’t want that.
Enter the ham steak—a wonderful, half-inch cross-section of everything you love about ham. One steak serves two people or smaller portions for three or four. You get all the smoke-cured, bone-in deliciousness without the commitment to follow-on meal planning. It’s the one-night-stand of ham.
Fry it, grill it, or heat it any old way to eat as is, or chop it up to put in omelets or pasta. Enjoy it. The next day, you can move on to another cut without any guilt.
I have ham steaks. You can even substitute them for ham in the 25lb box. Order what you want. We all have different needs at different times. I promise I won’t judge you.
* I learned this from the queen of the meat salad —my mom. In her kitchen, and now mine, the final leftovers of beef, pork, or chicken often go through a century-old hand-crank grinder with hard-boiled eggs. Then that gets mixed with mayo and relish. The trick is to get the mayonnaise ratio just right so the meat spread sticks to itself and stays in the sandwich. That way, you can eat one-handed while operating trucks and tractors. You steer with your left hand and hold the sandwich in your right between your thumb and first two fingers. That leaves your third and fourth fingers to work with the heel of your hand to operate the throttle, gear shift, and hydraulic levers. It's multi-tasking before the smart-phone age.
Former Marine Infantry Officer. Iraq Vet. Interested in Regenerative Agriculture at any scale.
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The Odyssey Farm Journal
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Dane County 2022 Climate Champion
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