Ham Goo to Ham Sandwiches – Tamaring a Local Ham

March 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Getting a Lot For Your Local Ham

Regular readers of the Local Family know that one book guides us more than anything, Tamar Adler’s Everlasting Meal.   Better than any cook book, Adler’s collection of essays guide you through a process that will enable you to eat well.  In addition, her advice leads beyond deliciousness.  Her ideas on practicality and thrift provide the needed counterweights to balance against the hassles and costs of eating local.  You will want to be a better locavore after reading the book.

We made good use of several concepts of Everlasting Meal in the recent use of a local ham.  The ham came from Crystal and her C & D Family Farms.  Crystal has lured us into her hams for two reasons.  First, she gave us samples.  Second, she gave us her recipe–as easy as a crock pot and tap water.  Even easier, you start with the frozen ham.  We have since done the crock pot thing with a few of her hams.  Now, the Condiment Queen is an embellisher.  She filled the crock pot for the last one with a potion from Filbert’s root beer (yes, very local), dried peppers, cinnamon sticks, cloves and Jim’s cider vinegar.  There are no amounts, it depends on your pot size really.  She made the ham to have filling for a sandwich party we attended.  As Tamar would say, sandwiches were just the start.

Cooking a Crystal ham in a crock pot produced meat for several dishes and it produced other stuff for culinary use.  What Crystal sells as a whole ham, is, roughly, the upper leg of the hog.  It is not the full ham.  It comes in at about 13 pounds, including the hip bone.  After crock potting, we had, besides the party use, meat for fried rice, meat for a quiche, meat for something akin to a croque monsieur  and meat we have not yet used.  We also got tons of ham fat and ham goo, both we have used already and both we will be able to use for many weeks ahead.

That’s some of the ham stuff.  I know, not artful nor especially photogenic.  To use an expression I hate, it is what it is.  This time of year, it is easy to extract both.  We can take the crock pot pot and put it in our un-heated “mudroom”.  Several hours later, gobs of ham fat can be skimmed off the surface.  I used a spoon of this fat when I made fried rice.  I plan on using it when cooking a variety of vegetables too.  I could probably also use it on bread when I’m feeling particularly decadent.  It will give anything it touches a strong veneer of richness.  It can flavor without overpowering, and in the Bittman/Mediterranean diet vein, can provide ample meatiness while keeping your total meat intake low. That’s the ham fat.

Ham goo, that’s what’s left in the crock pot when you skim the ham.  You might be able to tell from that picture that the stock left was full of gelatin and other meaty oomph, hence the title, ham goo.  It is almost like ham demi-glace if you ask me.  A little went a long way for making a delicious split pea soup, and we have a lot left for beans, greens and anything else that could benefit from this flavored liquid.

We paid a lot more for Crystal’s ham than a ham from the supermarket.  We had no problem doing it because we like Crystal.  We respect how she does it.  We want to eat local meat.  It tastes better.  Still, it all makes the most sense when you also apply your Tamaring.  Take not just a sandwich from your ham. Enhance some vegetables by cooking them with the fat.  Compensate for pricey meat by cooking cheap beans in the stock.  It’s easier to be a Local Family this way.