Swine Before Pearls
October 19, 2007 9:48 AM   Subscribe

On ham, with a fascinating (well, unless you're kosher) history of colonial curing methods.
posted by digaman (46 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
"Ham modernity dates from the erection of what Wolfgang Shivelbusch has called the first global drug culture—the oceanic trading system that made the exchange of sugar, spice, tea, coffee, and chocolate the engine of the world system. Only after the explosion of the world sugar supply occasioned by the consolidation of the Brazilian cane plantations in the sixteenth century was the commodity cheap enough for trial and error in the kitchen and smokehouse. Indeed, there was decidedly a sugar moment in Western cuisine, when sucrose was added to everything as the pangustatory element. When added as the fourth s to the ancient cure, sugar mellowed the harshness of salted flesh. Sugar-cured hams became the bedrock of American porcine cuisine."

Sorry for the single link, but I love essays like this: the history of Western civilization through a ham-shaped keyhole.
posted by digaman at 9:51 AM on October 19, 2007

Ah, this is excellent reading to complement my newly found (and MeFi inspired) hobby of home curing meats. And the recipe/poem near the end of the article is fan ham-tastic!
posted by slogger at 10:01 AM on October 19, 2007

I really enjoyed that. Thanks.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:02 AM on October 19, 2007

Oh, lovely, lovely ham! Surely, I wish my last meal to consist of ham, with ham on the side, and for dessert, ham.

Ham, ham, ham, ham, ham!
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:11 AM on October 19, 2007

Excellent link to a fine periodical, Common-Place. Thanks.
posted by LarryC at 10:15 AM on October 19, 2007

The Search for the Cure

Now that would've been a telethon I wouldn't mind donating to.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:16 AM on October 19, 2007

That is a great essay. Thank you for finding it!
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:17 AM on October 19, 2007

Thanks for the new word. It's lovely.
posted by Mblue at 10:19 AM on October 19, 2007

Books before swine, I skipped right to this investigation of a 19th-century New Jersey bookbinder, which links to this catalog of bookbinding equipment. Fascinating, and well illustrated. Many thanks, digaman!
posted by steef at 10:27 AM on October 19, 2007

On Ham! On Bacon! On Trotters and Picnic!
On Pork Chop and Chitlins and Souse (a pork aspic)!
posted by Wolfdog at 10:37 AM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'll need to see the full version of that, Wolfdog.
posted by GuyZero at 10:41 AM on October 19, 2007

I wrote you a full version but I eated it.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:43 AM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

well, unless you're kosher

Jews are even prohibited from reading about pork now?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:47 AM on October 19, 2007

I love ham. I love salt.
posted by NationalKato at 10:50 AM on October 19, 2007

Pollomacho -- I talk about fascination, you talk about prohibition. It's a microcosm.
posted by digaman at 10:55 AM on October 19, 2007

Of these the skipper (Piophila casei), a small two-winged fly with striped abdomen, inspired most anxiety, for its larvae could reduce salted hams to slimy rot in a short time. Because the larvae can withstand human stomach acid, ingestion may further lead to the colonization and injuring of one's intestines.
posted by ssmith at 10:59 AM on October 19, 2007

More about the revered ossabaw pig.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:01 AM on October 19, 2007

That is awesome, stupidsexy.
posted by digaman at 11:06 AM on October 19, 2007

In the US one can readily mail order good American ham. The magic words are "country ham". Also important to avoid the term "water added"; grocery store ham invariably has water forced in to increase the weight and spoil the pleasure of the food. Real ham is dry.
posted by Nelson at 11:12 AM on October 19, 2007

"Swine before pearls" nyuck nyuck

Cane Creek Farm sells Ossabaw ham.

"But pour it, sans ceremonie, directly from the pot;
There let the meat for thirty days, lie soaking in this brine,
(but just add a small nutmeg, and a pint of Glycerine.)—
Then take it from the pickling tub, and wash it in cold water.
Next hang it up to smoke ten days, "leastwise" I think you ought to;
Burn Maple, Oak, Corn-Cobs or Tan, most any wood will do;
The old fogy song, 'bout Hickory wood, I don't believe is true;
Don't smoke whilst wind comes from the east, or southeast or the south;
For take my word that meat will taste quite bitter in the mouth

Yikes. Sounds like a witches brew.

I like cured meat, pork or beef. Air dried bunderfleisch is very nice. Living around Tibetans I learned to like strips of dried water buffalo as a meditation retreat food. Handy and tasty.

Prosciutto is the Italian word for ham. mmmm, with cantaloupe. Delish. Papaya, Prosciutto, and Lime Recipe. Stuffed Steak with Prosciutto and Spinach. Prosciutto Wrapped Endive and Radicchio with Balsamic-Fig Reduction. Stuffed prosciutto roses.

What's the best modern, easily available ham in America you think? Boar's Head?
posted by nickyskye at 11:14 AM on October 19, 2007

I briefly dated a woman who was a member of the Ossabaw Island Foundation. She turned out to be quite the psycho, but, man, now I wish I'd stayed with her long enough to be invited to one of their pig roasts.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:15 AM on October 19, 2007

Ham's terrific stuff but and it spans a broad economic church too. Great ham - like parma or real yorkshire or serano is some of the best food in the world. But even shit ham is kind of OK. You couldn't say that about sausages or bread or canned soup.
posted by rhymer at 11:21 AM on October 19, 2007

What's the best modern, easily available ham in America you think? Boar's Head?

I like Boar's Head, especially their flavored hams. Partnering with Publix supermarkets was a smart idea. Honeybaked is also tasty, and easily mail-ordered..
posted by NationalKato at 11:23 AM on October 19, 2007

From the USDA article, Ham and Food Safety, a bit about the moldy bites:
Mold - Can often be found on country cured ham. Most of these are harmless but some molds can produce mycotoxins. Molds grow on hams during the long curing and drying process because the high salt and low temperatures do not inhibit these robust organisms. DO NOT DISCARD the ham. Wash it with hot water and scrub off the mold with a stiff vegetable brush.
You can always cover them up in the Food Network recipe, Green Eggs and Ham.
posted by cenoxo at 11:24 AM on October 19, 2007

Excellent! I'm cold smoking a molasses-cured Black Forest ham this weekend, along with three slabs of maple-cured bacon.

I've got two more prosciutto style hams curing, just about ready for the hanging. Both they and the Black Forest ham will hang for six months or so.

There's four more slabs of belly plus many pounds of various cuts waiting in the freezer for curing and/or getting turned into sausages.
posted by ewagoner at 11:28 AM on October 19, 2007

I just wanted to come back to warn everyone to watch out for the red-legged ham beetle, surely the most nefarious of all beetles, their faceted eyes ablaze with hamlust and not a shred of conscience to stand in their way. The merciless, the demented, the ravenous red-legged ham beetle, oh woe, oh terror, god save us!

What a majestic name though, the red-legged ham beetle, how proud those beetles must be to wake up and think "I am the red-legged ham beetle and today I am going to seriously fuck up some ham, as my fathers and their fathers did before me, all the way back to the mists of pre-history." What a life!
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:41 AM on October 19, 2007 [3 favorites]

The red-legged ham beetle

*Jazz Hands*

Ahem, I... apologize... I'll just see myself out.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:46 AM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, Divine...you're such a ham.
posted by NationalKato at 11:52 AM on October 19, 2007

Geeze, Divine_Wino.

Now I'm going to have to spend the next six months sitting in a chair under my hams with a can of kitchen-safe raid in each hand, waiting, watching, ever-vigilant for the red-legged ham beetle.
posted by ewagoner at 11:52 AM on October 19, 2007

The week that I took this musical trip to Virginia, I ordered country ham at nearly every meal that we ate in a restaurant. It was a revelation, and I never got tired of it.

Curiously, the best/cheapest place to buy real country hams in San Francisco is Chinatown. Chinese chefs do great things with it -- like a dish I had at the marvelous Yuet Lee restaurant, braised tofu with black mushrooms and a little sliver of country ham in every bite. Tofu and ham, how non-American! Alas, the one time I was able to taste that dish, a Chinese speaker ordered it, and I've never been able to get it since.
posted by digaman at 11:59 AM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

The colonial diet was absolutely loaded with salt, no wonder they drank beer, cider and wine like it was going out of style.
posted by tommasz at 12:04 PM on October 19, 2007

Prosciutto di Parma....Food rarely gets me to exclaim variations on "OMFG" but that stuff is as close to orgasm-inducing as any gustatory experience is likely to get (excepting pumpkin pie, of course).
posted by pax digita at 12:08 PM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Now I'm going to have to spend the next six months sitting in a chair

Admit it -- it's not the bug, it's the hamlust.
posted by aramaic at 12:10 PM on October 19, 2007

This... is a FANTASTIC post.

Thank you, sir!
posted by BobFrapples at 12:17 PM on October 19, 2007

i need another big score before i could afford this ham.
posted by bruce at 12:19 PM on October 19, 2007

I don't even like ham, but this post was delicious.
But I'm SO thirsty now.
posted by not_on_display at 12:58 PM on October 19, 2007

I told myself, I said "Everichon, do not go into the ham thread, you will end up wanting ham. It will be just like those goddam bacon threads." And, yeah, sho nuff, I WANT ME SOME HAM!

Never. Again.
posted by everichon at 1:14 PM on October 19, 2007

Whew, gladly nobody so far has posted Pickle Surprise. That is some shit I never need to see again.
posted by autodidact at 1:35 PM on October 19, 2007

Oh alright, here it is.
posted by autodidact at 1:38 PM on October 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

Nice post digaman! red eye gravy n' grits mmm! Nothing like a good pig picking!
posted by Rancid Badger at 1:44 PM on October 19, 2007

After your salty country ham with the pickle surprise, be sure to enjoy some nice Strawberry Shortcut for dessert.
posted by Nelson at 2:32 PM on October 19, 2007

Christ, a few hits of acid and Pickle Surprise on a loop on a big screen, and the interrogators at Gitmo could lose the waterboarding.
posted by digaman at 3:57 PM on October 19, 2007

My parents tried to put me down, because I said fine ham abounds.

There doesn't seem to be decent video of this online. I'm saddened by that.

Oh, and a last meal of all ham would be pretty good, if I could get a side of bacon, and a little syrup.
posted by pupdog at 4:26 PM on October 19, 2007

pax digita, am a fellow pumpkin pie devotee. It's one of my favorite things about November. Good old Entenmann's. What kind do you like? And there's nothing like a Prosciutto di Parma and ripe tomato sandwich on good Italian bread. nom nom nom.
posted by nickyskye at 4:33 PM on October 19, 2007

Dammit, the Kroger across Sunbury from my pad does not have prosciutto. Off to Carfagna's for some real stuff.

Punkin pie? Gimme homemade any day. And pumpkin soufflé works right nicely too.
posted by pax digita at 6:39 PM on October 19, 2007

The pig, if I am not mistaken,
Gives us ham and gives us bacon.
Let others think his heart is big:
I think it foolish of the pig.

posted by ubiquity at 7:31 PM on October 19, 2007

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