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It Lives

March 26, 1997

For Sunday's article on country hams ("The Wilder Shores of Ham," March 23), we tasted four country hams, but one more had arrived too late to test. After all, a country ham has to be soaked at least 24 hours before you can cook it, and this was an aggressively old-fashioned 15-month-old Kentucky ham that was black from smoking, the meat so dried up it clutched the bone in a death grip. People took to calling it the Ham From the Crypt and the Jurassic Ham.

We took the precaution of soaking this ham a full 72 hours before simmering it. As it cooked, it emitted ominous tripe-like odors. The exposed parts of the meat turned a ghastly dirty yellow.

But when we cleaned off the ugly parts, the heart of the meat was a dark, faintly purplish red-brown, the color of a fine country ham. The texture was dense, making it easy to cut into paper-thin slices--which is how you'd want to eat it, really. It was highly flavorful, like the lean part of bacon fried well done. In short, it ended up one of our favorite hams.

Newsom's Old Mill Store, 208 E. Main Street, Princeton, KY 42445. (502) 365-2482. Hams $3.29/pound (weight ranges from 13 to 17 pounds) plus about $12.50 shipping.

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