Well, it's that time again...for country ham. The real thing, Yankees: not some water-and-smoke-juice-injected mild ham but a smoked-in-the-smokehouse-by-rugged-and-somewhat-tipsy-Virginians ham.
Rule one for all-day cooking, such as that required for perfect ham: keep the drinks handy.
At the recent VWER holiday party, both Iggy and his ol' pal Pappy Enoch showed up to cut the rug and do some ice skating. Pappy tried to give out Iggy's recipe for a perfect Martini, but Iggy needs to restate it here for those who could not attend. If you visit Richmond, you'll have to go to Thai Diner Too with us, so Yoko and her husband Jack can mix you one of Richmond's finest drinks (and best-kept secrets). Iggy's recipe is a pale shadow of theirs.
Ignatius' Almost-As-Good-As Yoko and Jack's Martini
- It's best to begin with liquor, shaker, and glasses that have been in the freezer or at least in the refrigerator. Cracked ice is better so, after shaking, one gets little icebergs in the mix...yum.
- Do not cheap out on the olives. They lose their savor fast, so look for gourmet ones with pimentos...do not get yuppie with Kalamatas, please. Spanish olives such as those from Serapis have been Jack's secret for a while.The company has an olive museum: 'nuff said.
- Per drunk: 2 oz top-shelf Gin (Tanqueray and Hendricks are Iggy's faves). Heretics may substitute top-shelf vodka (and if so, use more pearl onion than olive on the skewers. Martinis are not meant to be sweet).
- I rarely make a "dirty" Martini, but if so, I tip in some of the olive brine in the next step. Do not add more than a splash.
- Add liquor to shaker, where about 8 cubes of ice made from filtered water lie in ambush.
- Allow Gin and ice to become acquainted for 30 seconds or so, while gently agitating the open shaker.
- For very dry Martini, pour in a splash (perhaps a teaspoon) of dry Vermouth. My version of "dry" is about a tablespoon, but some tipplers add even more. I prefer merely tipping the Vermouth bottle in homage to the Gin and ice.
- Install the shaker top and check for leaks. They can be a heartbreak. Then shake it like it's a '72 Chevy Vega driven at 70 mph on a washboard road.
- In your glasses, add a skewer with at least 3 olives or, for Iggy's favorite, two olives with a pickled cocktail onion in the middle.
- Pour the martinis. Repeat at own risk.
You will find these smoked hams, ones that can store without refrigeration until sliced, in country markets and gourmet shops (they do exist!) throughout the South. Yankees and other unfortunates can order them and when prepared properly, as the chef at Edwards shows us in the video, the results are dramatic and delicious.
Our chef does not consider how to soak the ham. Doing this loses much of the salt but keeps in the smoky flavor. It may still be too salty if you slice it thickly, so practice thin-slicing on some lesser meats, then proceed.
Here's my advice for this year for getting yonder ham ready:
- After scrubbing any mold from the ham and rinsing, store it in a cooler. Cover with water and close.
- For at least two days, but no more than three, change the water twice daily. Flip the ham over when you do.
- For the last turning, add 2 liters of Doctor Pepper to the water. This is the Pappy Enoch way, y'all. Then you are ready to follow this gent's advice:
Iggy: "What he said. Where are the olives?"
The only ham I've had that I prefer to real country ham is Jamon Iberico de Bellota, and that costs $30 per pound, if it can even be found in the US. Jamon Serrano is close, and vies for my love of ham, but I digress. Must be that Martini!
Boxing Day Update: the ham was astounding, the best in years despite overcooking to 165 degrees. Several pounds have been hoovered up by hungry Southerners. Note to self--new meat thermometer, then recheck near end of cooking time with my digital one.