First off, my apologies to Sparrows and Honeybees because I ate her share of ham and now I'm rubbing it in her face by posting food porn pictures of it.
I was a vegetarian for 10 years or so. It feels like another lifetime at this point. My original motives as a teenager was to annoy my family with my special diet. Then I perhaps drank some koolaid that the PETA people were handing out. Oh, and having a lot of farm animals with names hanging around didn't help either. It all conspired to create a magic meatless vacuum in my life. It continued that way for quite some time, with nary a craving or a tempting thought of eating it otherwise. That is until I moved to the city, far removed from farm animals, which also happens to have lots of really good steakhouses. Filet Minion and Sirloin were my gateway drugs, especially when there were martinis plentiful to quell the bit of guilt.
I still eat a ton of vegetables and I try not to eat meat too often for health and environmental reasons. If the animal was humanely raised, then I have no moral issue with it. Finding a good source for it took a little time though.
I was overjoyed when I discovered The Piggery. They raise heirloom breeds- Mulefoot and Berkshires- on their farm in upstate New York. They get to roam around and root and be happy social pigs for their entire lives. In turn, they make for wonderful eats. None of this lean, dried out and flavorless pork you get in the store. This is real-deal pork for people who aren't afraid of a little fat in their lives. Because they practice snout-to-tail cooking, you get a lot of interesting bits as well with your share....headcheese, pate, scrapple. I make it policy to at least give everything a try, and it's all been really excellent.
Our weekly share has been a culinary adventure for me. Aside from Bacon, I have never cooked pork before. It started with a chop that I fried up and smothered with caramelized apples, some ribs that have set me off drooling on a clean shirt while daydreaming about them at work, a cluster of sausages that I uncased and used for dumpling filling, lots of heavenly bacon, and, most recently, ham.
I did some research on cooking this. I knew this had to be a little trashy in order for it to work. I kept coming across recipes for ham in coca-cola- it seemed like it was a staple of the American South to cook it in soda. I'm not a soda drinker at all, but having a super-sweet glaze seemed like a fun idea. I rummaged around in the fridge and found this:
Ginger soda (with pomegranate and hibiscus, naturally) is one of my favorite cocktail mixers. I've been mixing it with bourbon lately, but it's also good with rum and vodka. It's not as cloying as ginger ale, and it has a nice spicy bite to it. I found it went great with ham as well.
The ham was 2.5 lbs, so I put it in a pot and covered it with the pop. I threw in some onions and some fresh ginger and let it simmer away for an hour and a half. It smelled heavenly. Hog heavenly.
Once it was cooked, I took it out of the pot, pinned some pineapples and cloves to it, and threw it in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes, and then a quick broil which smoked up the house and set off the fire alarm, like it does every time.
It bronzed and baked the outside crisp, but the ample layer of fat insured the inner ham did not dry out a bit. I served it with a side of collard greens with plenty of garlic, just to keep it real.
It was delicious. The salty ham was balanced nicely by the sweet cola bath and the heady spice of ginger, and the tart acid of the pineapple. Also, the next morning was made hedonistic and immensely pleasurable by sending the leftover slices to the fry pan for a quick browning and then frying a couple eggs in the bit of grease it left behind.
Thankfully for me (and the pigs) the summer vegetable CSA will be starting up soon.