I have been hunting for a recipe for this, through all my white trash cookbooks. I have not found a thing, not in the Cracker Barrel cookbooks, or Miss Daisy Celebrates Tennessee, or even my mother’s Sunday School class cookbook from the ’80s. So I will try to remember what I saw, and write it down for you.
Pap, Daddy’s father, loved country ham, and he liked it boiled. So that’s what Mother did for Easter. The ham had been cured by storing it in a salt pack (buried in salt in a bin) and then it was smoked in the smokehouse for several days. All this was done in the fall after the frost came, and in the early winter.
The ham was left to hang in the smokehouse and dry until wanted. You could also put it back in the salt, as I recall, but I couldn’t swear to that.
When it was time to consider cooking it, Mother took it out and plunged a knife close to the bone, bringing it out to smell. This is how she could tell if the ham was good or had spoiled. If it smelled good, then she went to the next stage.
The country ham was soaked in a lard can full of water for a couple of hours, to get some of the salt out of it. When that was over, Mother built a fire in the back yard. The ham went back into a clean lard can which was filled with water up to a few inches from the rim. She put the lid on, and hefted the heavy load onto the fire. The ham cooked in the lard can for up to four hours. I’m not sure how she decided when to take it off the fire.
When she removed it, she immediately wrapped the can in quilts and left it. The ham continued cooking for some hours.
End result? Sweet, moist, smoky country ham, not salty, very tender.
The New York Times article today made me remember this process! Thanks to them for helping me recall how you cook a real country ham!
P.S. Pap loved this. He said Mother cooked the best ham he ever had.