Ham of unknown origin
January 8, 2012 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I have been given a whole ham with no label, description, or instructions. What should I do with it?

A relative was given a ham a couple of weeks ago by a local church group/charity. She doesn't eat ham at all, so has passed the ham on to me. The problem is, without at least knowing what type of ham it is, I don't know how to prepare it. It came to me only wrapped in a net, inside a plastic grocery bag. Is there a way to tell whether it's previously-cooked or uncooked, and whether it's a "country ham", maybe if I cut into it? I'll definitely be heating it either way. Is it fair to assume that if I wash/scrub it well then heat it to an internal temp of 165 degrees that it'll be reasonably safe to eat? Or should I just not risk it and just toss it out? Here are a couple pics, if that helps at all (pic1 and pic2) . It smells okay to me, salty and maybe a little smoky. Smells like a ham.
posted by mkdg to Food & Drink (11 answers total)
Best answer: Ah, you got one of those! Bone-in smoked ham. They're a pain to carve, but the bone makes fantastic soup.

I make one of these every Easter. I'll reproduce the recipe I typed in response to a similar question earlier on:

Chop 2 peeled onions reasonably roughly, and scatter in a roasting pan or dutch oven big enough to accommodate your ham.

Scatter the onions with 1 tsp of whole black peppercorns, and a couple of bay leaves.

Remove all netting and packaging from the ham, and place on the onions in the roasting pan.

Pour 1 can of Strongbow cider over top, and slather the ham with apple butter (or any fruit compote, really. Apricot compote also works very nicely).

Slap a lid on that sucker and roast low and slow till done.

Carve and serve, reserve the bone and cooking liquid. These can be used to make split pea soup, cooking the bone with the dried split peas, and adding the reserved cooking liquid in later. Yummy!
posted by LN at 12:00 PM on January 8, 2012

Best answer: You have a cured ham. Stick it in a low oven until it's warm through. For extra pizzazz, slather it with mustard first.
posted by trip and a half at 12:03 PM on January 8, 2012

Or what LN said.
posted by trip and a half at 12:04 PM on January 8, 2012

It's a cooked ham. I am in the "slather it in mustard, stick it in the oven" camp. You can follow these Oven Method directions for heating a ham. I consider the glazing step to be optional.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:14 PM on January 8, 2012

(PS: There is absolutely no need to wash and certainly not scrub it.)
posted by DarlingBri at 12:15 PM on January 8, 2012

Are people missing the "two weeks?" The USDA guideline for cured hams (not yet cooked) is 5-7 days or use-by-date. I can't personally confirm or deny the above identifications, so I can only trust that it is, in fact, a cured ham and only a cured ham. Unless there's a use-by-date, this ham is unsafe according to the USDA.

Are we disagreeing with the USDA? Is there a discrepancy in the terminology?
posted by stuart_s at 12:34 PM on January 8, 2012

So, question for mkdg - was this thing frozen when you got it, vacuum packed or otherwise sealed? How has your cousin been keeping this ham in the two weeks since it was given to her by the charity?

Hams may not smell manky when they go off (due to the salt and smoke), but they get quite slimy. How does your ham feel?
posted by LN at 12:50 PM on January 8, 2012

Best answer: Looks like a cured country ham.

To prepare:

Wash and scrub off mold with stiff brush. (Don't panic, the mold means the ham's ready to be eaten).

Soak the ham in Coca-Cola or Dr Pepper overnight (depending on the size, you may need a couple of two liters or more). This will bring any saltiness under control. For God's sake, don't use diet soda!

Saw off about 2 inches of the hock bone and put ham in roaster.

Set your oven rack to the lowest position and preheat oven to 250°F. Place your ham fat-side up on the roasting pan's rack. Pour 2 cups water and 2 cups Coke into bottom of pan and seal tightly with aluminum foil (you may need 2 or 3 pieces). Put it in the oven and cook until ham reaches 125°F in center when tested with an instant-read thermometer, 3 to 4 hours, depending on size and shape.

Meanwhile, combine 2 cups coke, 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally until thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes.

When the ham's reached 125°F, remove it from oven, uncover, and score the fat cap in crosshatch pattern, making the slices about 1 inch apart. Baste with 1/3 of glaze, increase oven temperature to 400 degrees, and bake 5 minutes. Baste it again with 1/3 more glaze and bake until crisp and shiny, 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven and baste with remaining glaze.

Tent with foil and allow to rest 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

You now have a honey-glazed ham to serve your guests.
posted by magstheaxe at 1:17 PM on January 8, 2012

Response by poster: LN - It's just been refrigerated, not vacuum-packed or sealed in any way, with just a netting around it. Feels pretty dry--not what I would call slimy at all--the fatty parts feel fatty (like bacon), and the non-fatty parts feel dry. I don't have the exact date but it's probably been closer to 3 weeks.
posted by mkdg at 1:26 PM on January 8, 2012

Best answer: Yeah, definitely a country ham - dry-cured, not brined. Depending on the degree of cure, they can be shelf-stable at room temperature for quite a while. If you're going to cook it as a whole ham, you'll need to soak it in something. The soda magstheaxe mentions is a typical liquid used, in my experience.
posted by WasabiFlux at 1:57 PM on January 8, 2012

Sounds like it should be safe enough.

Agreed on the soaking, although around my house, soaking a ham in pop would be considered a travesty! ;)
posted by LN at 12:43 PM on January 9, 2012

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