Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kyle Goes Old School With Stuffed Ham -- And Goes To Trueth's For That Brined Meat

Kyle's family is invited every year to a large family Easter dinner.  It's a Polish/German Catholic family that they're related to only through marriage.  Each family is asked to bring a dish, and this year, Kyle got the ham.

Big pieces of meat aren't my wheelhouse.  But Kyle went exotic.  He grew up in southern Prince George's County where he had learned about Southern Maryland stuffed ham.  So he went unique and local.  (And he used a bungee cord.)
The ham is pretty famous in St Mary's and surrounding counties especially at church suppers. I even made the stuffed ham once back in the 90s. I had to take advantage of a large gathering to make it again.

The main ingredient is a corned ham, whole bone-in uncooked brine cured leg of pork that has not been smoked or dried. This isn't a common find.  I immediately thought of Trueth & Sons butchers in Oella.  If anyone had it, they would. I called a week before Easter, and they said they had to order it. If they could get it, it would arrive on Wednesday.  I asked about weight and price and was told they would call on Wednesday. 
Meanwhile I started to get cold feet because southern MD ham wasn't exactly central European or run of the mill American fare.  Wednesday came and went with no call.  So I assumed that the corned ham was a no-go, and I was somewhat relieved.  So off to the local grocery store to buy a spiral sliced ham that I would just glaze. Being somewhat of a purist, I found a Smithfield hardwood smoked 11-pound ham with natural juices. Yes, it was commercial ham from a chain grocery store, but it was made right. As long as I didn't dry it out and used an interesting glaze, it would be good and normal. 
Saturday afternoon, I got a call from Trueth's. The guy wants to know when I'm going to pick up my corned ham. I told him that they were suppose to call me because they didn't even know if they could get it. He said he wasn't told, and I still had a 21 pound corned ham at 1.99/lb. Feeling a bit betrayed but not wanting to stick my local butcher with an obscure piece of meat, I told him I would come get it. The corned ham was processed by Manger's Packing Company in Baltimore. Apparently, this is one of their specialty products, and they supply many of the locations in southern MD that serve this dish. They also make a half-smoke that's legendary.
The stuffing is composed of kale, cabbage, and onions with lots of spice. The spices are heavy on mustard seed, celery seed and red pepper. I already had cabbage but I needed kale and lots of it. So I thought of Korean markets. If they didn't have kale, I could substitute some other greens. Lotte was on the way. I don't trust Lotte's packaged goods or meats, but the veggies are fine. So I bought six bundles of kale, nearly wiping them out. I needed a lot of red pepper and had a lot of Korean coarse ground red pepper (smallest package weighs a pound). So that's what I used.

I couldn't remember where I got my recipe the first time, but now I had the web. So off googling I went. They're not a lot of choices. The most prevalent recipe used a deboned ham and that's not what I remembered or wanted. Another one used a half a ham. Other recipes used different spice mixes or amounts of spices. I just sort of doubled and melded the recipes to come up with mine.

The actual recipe is fairly straight forward and even looks fairly simple except your dealing with 20 pounds of meat stuffed with almost 9 pounds of veggies. This monster has to be slit, stuffed, wrapped in cheesecloth, tied, put into a pot, covered, boiled for 5 hours and then removed from the pot. The preparation of the veggies for the stuffing was long even though I used a food processor for the real chopping. Invariably, I flooded parts of my kitchen. Even covering the pot was difficult since the bone kept the lid from fitting soundly. I used a bungee cord to secure the lid and push that ham in. I felt the rack on the bottom was really important. The ham shouldn't come into direct contact with the heat source for 5 hours. Finally I had to cool the ham, remove the cheese cloth and slice part of it.  I used an electric knife to slice it off the bones with nice pockets of stuffing in each slice.

Was it worth it? Yes, the ham was beautiful and made a very impressive presentation. It tasted pretty good too. The taste was different than a normal ham and not everyone appreciated it.  According to the one guy who grew up with this stuff, it was very authentic looking and tasting.  I ended up serving the spiral ham too with a bourbon, coke and mustard glaze.  The spiral ham was completely devoured.  The stuffed corned ham was less than half devoured.  For the remaining ham, I removed the bones and used them for a ham stock.  I sliced some of the meat for leftovers and froze two big chunks for later. I claim success. 
Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham

1 whole uncooked corned ham (bone-in and about 20 pounds)
2 pounds cabbage
4 pounds kale after removing thick stems (6 bunches from Korean market)
2 pounds onions
1/4 cup coarse ground red pepper (I used Korean)
1/4 cup whole mustard seed
1/4 cup whole celery seed
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground mustard
3 tablespoons salt

Thoroughly rinse the kale. Boil in 4 quarts of salted (about 1 tablespoon) water for about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Finely chop the kale by pulsing small batches in the food processor.

Slice cabbage and onions in food processor using slicing blade. Switch to chopping blade and pulse in small batches until finely chopped.

To make stuffing, combine cabbage, kale and onions in large bowl. Sprinkle in remaining ingredients and mix well.

Cut 2-3 inch wide slits as deep as possible into the ham. The slits should be oriented perpendicular to how the ham is to be sliced. The idea is to have narrow areas of greens in several places per slice. Press as much stuffing as possible into the slits. If there's any stuffing left, press around the ham.

Wrap stuffed ham in cheesecloth and use butcher's twine to tie the cheesecloth on. Put ham in very large pot with rack at bottom (to prevent burning on the bottom of the pot), cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 5 hours. Let ham cool in the water about 2 hours.

Remove ham leaving on tied cheesecloth and place in large plastic bag. Chill overnight in refrigerator. Remove cheesecloth and slice. Serve cold.


John Thacker said...

BTW, I work near McGaw Road, and we've actually seen construction start in earnest on Wegmans this past week or two, finally.

Anonymous said...

I can't decide what I think about stuffed ham. It's one of those food ideas I find fascinating and a slight turn-off, all at once. Although, I always love when we can resurrect once common preparations.

Anonymous said...

I would kill for a piece of that ham.

Anonymous said...

Days later this picture of a ham stuffed with some kinda green goodness is still captivating me. I might have to try to cook something like this. Anybody got a recipe?