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Country Ham with Redeye Gravy



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Country Ham with Redeye Gravy

Saveur Cooks Authentic American:
Celebrating the Recipes and
Diverse Traditions of Our Rich Heritage

by the Editors of Saveur Magazine, 1998, Chronicle Books


The Genuine Article

“In Trigg County, Kentucky, ham is a way of life – and like life itself, not neces-sarily governed by scientific principles. If you ask a ham maker like Audrey
Pool how he smokes his specimens, for instance, he’s apt to reply, ‘I know it
sounds like a smart-aleck answer, but I do it till I run out of smoke.’ Trigg
County hams, in other words, are made by tradition rather than by recipe.
That’s just the sort of folksy approach that the USDA frowns upon; hams
sold commercially must be produced according to consistent standards, which
are concerned with hygiene but not necessarily with quality. That means that
unless you visit Trigg County or some other area of the rural South that spe-
cializes in ham production, you’re unlikely to encounter the real thing. There
are some credible approximations, though. The Southern-style country ham
originated in Smithfield, Virginia, in the mid-1600s, and today that town re-
mains the capital of high-quality commercial country ham production. Other
good examples of the genre are made in Georgia, Tennessee, even Vermont
– but Smithfield remains our favorite not-quite-Trigg-County ham.”

“Fried country ham with redeye gravy (which gets its name not from the
ocular condition of those who make it early in the morning, but because
the coffee, when stirred into the pan drippings, swirls like the eye of an
angry red hurricane) is the centerpiece of a classic Southern breakfast;
just add grits and biscuits. (If you start with a whole country ham, see
below for how to prepare it.”

One 1/4-inch-thick slice of Smithfield or
other country-style ham (recipe follows),
with fat untrimmed
1/2 cup boiling coffee

1. Fry ham in a large skillet over medium heat, turning once, until
browned on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a
warm plate.
2. Add coffee to skillet and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up
any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Pour gravy over ham.

Boiled Country Ham:
1 whole 14-16-pound country ham
1 cup cider vinegar
2 cups apple juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

To cook a whole country ham, cut off the hock (saving it to flavor black-
eyed peas
, beans, or greens), then, where the ham gets wider, use a hack-
saw to cut about 8 slices 1/4 inch thick for frying as in the recipe above.
(You may ask your butcher to make these cuts for you.) Soak remaining
bulky part of original ham overnight in cold water (spiked with cider
vinegar) to cover.
After soaking, wash in fresh water, and scrub with a stiff brush. Rinse
ham well, then put in a large pot with cold water to cover. Bring to a
simmer over medium heat, then add apple juice and sugar. Reduce heat
to low and simmer 15 – 20 minutes per pound. When done, remove
from heat and allow to rest in cooking liquid until cool enough to handle. Remove from pot and trim off the hard exterior and most, but not all, of
the fat. Combine bread crumbs, brown sugar, and pepper. While ham is
still warm, pat mixture all over (it will harden as ham cools). To serve,
slice ham from hock side in small thin slices.

Featured Archive Recipes:
Emeril's "Country" Ham with Red-eye
Gravy and Creamy Grits

Vicksburg Stuffed Baked Ham

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