It's that time of year again.
fig. a: good cheer!
So you send out your invites,
fig. b: ole No. 301
and you settle on a centrepiece (real sugar-cured country ham*) and a theme (Southern).
Then you put together your menu:
Glazed and baked country ham (Turner Ham House, Fulks Run, VA)
Shaved country ham (Col. Newsom's ole No. 301)
Shrimp & Oyster Gumbo
Poor man's caviar
fig. c: Michelle's huîtres
Oysters figure prominently on the menu, so you find yourself two small cases of oysters (one 24-count, one 48-count), and you roll up your sleeves and begin shucking and cooking up a storm.
Baked Artichoke Dip
I cup mayonnaise
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 13 3/4-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3 tbsp unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 tsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400º F. Stir the mayonnaise, the Parmesan, and the onions together in a medium bowl. Pulse the artichokes in a food processor until finely chopped. Stir the artichokes into the cheese mixture and add the lemon juice and the black pepper and mix well.
Scrape the artichoke mixture into a small baking dish. Combine the breadcrumbs and the olive oil and sprinkled them overtop. Bake until the top is browned, about 20 minutes.
Serve with crackers or toast.
[recipe from The All New All Purpose Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer, and Ethan Becker]
Baked Country Ham
1 whole 15-pound country ham
10 bay leaves
2 tbsp mustard seeds
3 cups cider vinegar
24 whole cloves
1 cup dark brown sugar
special equipment: a large stock pot capable of holding the entire ham
Clean your country ham with a stiff brush under warm running water. Place the ham in your stockpot and fill it with just enough water to cover the ham (it's okay if the ham hock protrudes above the water). Let the ham soak for 24 hours, changing the water as often as possible, ideally a minimum of four times.
Change the water a final time and transfer the pot to your stovetop. Add the bay leaves, the mustard seeds, and the vinegar and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 3 hours (or until the internal temperature of the ham reaches 160º F), topping up, as necessary, with fresh water.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375º F.
Remove the ham from the stockpot and turn off the heat. When the ham is cool enough to handle, shave off the skin (but not that beautiful layer of fat characteristic of a country ham) with a sharp knife. Score the fat and exposed flesh in a diagonal pattern, stud it with a single clove in the center of each scored diamond, and pat in thoroughly on all sides with the brown sugar.
Place the ham in a roasting pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the fat has crisped and the sugar has melted into a lovely glaze. Let the ham rest on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and carve.
Serve with buttermilk biscuits and plenty of fixings (mustard, pickled corn, etc.).
[adapted ever so slightly from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook]
Southern Odyssey Mix
Preheat stereo to 450º F.
In a computer or MP-3 playing device of your choosing, mix together about 200 of your favorite Southern hits, especially all those having to do with Southern food and Southern drink (like Elvis Presley's "Crawfish," Dusty Springfield's "Willie & Laura Mae Jones," Bob Wills' "Roly Poly," Betty Davis' "They Say I'm Different," Memphis Minnie's "Good Biscuits," Hank Williams, Sr.'s "Jambalaya," Ann Peebles' "99 Pounds," Koko Taylor's "Wang Dang Doodle," Ted Hawkins' "There Stands the Glass," and so on). Mix well.
Place in stereo and bake for 6-7 hours, or until guests are fully loaded.
Invite 40-50 of your closest friends, and ask them to bring their own bottle to augment the festivities, as well as a canned food donation for a worthy charity (in this case, Dans la rue).
fig. d: Hello, Abner!
If you're lucky, your guests might arrive bearing gifts, like Abner Bauman's summer sausage from rural Ontario,
fig. e: C's candies
or C's gorgeous assortment of homemade/handmade candies (including my two favorites: Aunt Bill's Brown Candy and Neapolitan Strips).
If you're really lucky, you might just have enough baked ham left over to make some AEB ham & cheese sandwiches, the sandwich Michelle promptly declared "the best sandwich I've ever eaten!"
fig. f: AEB ham & cheese
AEB Ham & Cheese Sandwich
fresh Portuguese rolls
leftover baked ham
red onion, sliced into rounds
thinly sliced cheddar cheese
strong mustard (preferably Vve Tierenteyn-Verlen brand)
Compose and devour. Repeat as needed.
She ain't kidding. That Turner country ham's robust, gamy flavor plus that powerful, horseradish-y mustard, the pickled corn, and the bit of raw onion, makes for a ham & cheese sandwich that'll get up and talk to you.
fig. g: how 'bout them apples?
And if you're especially lucky your generous guests will bring you enough canned goods to fill two large boxes, because as great as it is to participate in an event like Menu for Hope 5, it's important to try attending to the situation at home too.
Happy holidays! Eat well! Be well!
ps--TY to all our generous guests!
* Which, in spite of what non-believers will try to tell you, if they're prepared according to time-honored Southern tradition (like both of our hams were), are 100% sodium nitrate- and nitrite-FREE.