Tennesee Country Ham

Ah… country ham. It’s pretty much unknown here in Canada. It’s a southern treat that has a character all its own and completely distinct from the “city ham” we are used to here. Here‘s a breakdown of how they differ.

On our first trip to Nashville, we had country ham for breakfast one day, served with Red Eye gravy. It was a revelation. Salty, meaty and with a depth we weren’t prepared for. Of course it goes perfectly with the gravy made from the ham drippings, some black coffee and a little brown sugar.

For a family holiday dinner this year, I decided to try a whole salt and sugar cured country ham, bought by mail order from the Loveless Cafe out of Nashville.

A country ham is no picnic. It’s a multi-day prep process to make this ham ready to eat. When you remove the wrapping, it’s covered in a fine mold from being hung for up to two years, kind of like an aged cheese. It was also well, a little funky. After a good brushing, the ham needed to soak in water for two days with complete water changes twice a day. Removing the hock (the large knot of bone at one end of the ham) is optional but requires a saw. I opted to leave it in.

Country Ham 1Country Ham 2

Country Ham 3Country Ham 4After the skin is removed, you score the fat and bake the ham for 4 hours or so. With an hour to go, you brush on some glaze to caramelize onto the ham. I used some of Loveless Cafe’s amazing peach preserves, ginger and some grainy mustard.

Country Ham 5Country Ham 6

Country Ham 7Country Ham 8When the ham was finished baking, the glaze was shiny and cooked on and the ham smelled delicious. I let it sit for a half-hour before carving  into slices with an electric knife. It was juicy, smoky, sweet and a little salty with more depth and complexity than other ham I’ve had.

Country Ham 10

Country Ham 13We served the ham with biscuits, scalloped potatoes, a brussel sprout hash made with pecans and a maple basalmic vinaigrette, mustard pickles, and some of those best-ever peach preserves.

Country Ham 9Having the freshly carved ham is great, but the next morning, having it with freshly baked biscuits is really the raison d’etre for this ham. It’s its calling. There’s a reason ham and biscuits is a time-honoured Southern tradition, and now it’s one of ours.

4 thoughts on “Tennesee Country Ham”

  1. It looks like it was worth the effort.

    Two questions: (1) “soak in water for two days”. Is that ice water I see in the picture? (2) removing the bone…are you just meaning to cut off the exposed piece or separate it totally from the meat?

  2. Thanks Craig.

    The instructions on the Loveless website say to soak the ham in a cooler in cold water, changing the water twice daily. I didn’t use ice.

    As for the bone, they really mean for you to optionally remove the hock, a knot of bone at the tip of the ham. You’d need a bone saw to take it off. I didn’t remove it and found that it just came apart naturally once cooked.

    The instructions I followed were here:

  3. Agree with you wholeheartedly with your comments about ham here in Canada, just isn’t really all that good. Had some black forest ham in a buffet at a hotel in Germany a couple years back and was blown away at how good it was.
    I was wondering if you had any customs issues getting it sent to you? Always worried that meat will get seized at the border so don’t order any sort of meat from US to get sent up.
    Thanks for the post.

  4. Sorry for the delay, Monty. We regularly order ham and bacon frmt he Loveless Cafe in Nashville and have experienced no problems. Of course, this is a very expensive way to buy meat! LOL

    We have had some good luck with Farm-boy who stock hams from some Quebec-based smokehouses, but you really have to buy a whole ham, and pretty much at the time of year where ham is consumed — Easter and Christmas.

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