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Carol Perkins: The Country Ham

It was to have been a great tradition - Country ham breakfast on Christmas morning - made greater by the whole country ham she had won.
Last week's column: Carol Perkins: Tips for women

By Carol Perkins

Guy loves country ham. Our Christmas tradition is a country ham breakfast. That is the only time I fry country ham because he shouldn't eat it and I like it once or twice a year. So when I came home from work one day and announced that I had won a country ham, he was elated.

"It's in the back of the car," I said. "It's too heavy for me, so you probably need to get it and hang it up somewhere." That was all I knew about country hams: they needed to hang somewhere.

My grandparents had a smokehouse for their hams, but I didn't have a smokehouse, so we decided to hang it in the basement and there is where it stayed until Christmas-six months later.

Every time I opened the basement door, the enticing smell rose up the steps.

Guy would go down just to get a ham "fix" and return saying, "Are you sure we have to wait for Christmas?" Everything in the basement smelled like cured ham. I had never dealt with a country ham, so when Christmas came I called someone who would know. He told me to take it to the IGA and have it prepared for cooking and then he gave me instructions on methods to bake it. I sent Guy to the IGA with a smile on his face.

He came back in just a little while without his smile. The ham was lying in a box but it was not ready to cook. "The butcher couldn't get his saw to go through the ham; all he could do was cut it in half." I thought the man might cry. "The guy said that some hams are like this, but he had never had one he couldn't get his knife through."

I decided that leaving it hanging in the basement must have been the wrong thing to do. Not to be outdone, I shoved the two pieces in a cooking bag, smothered it in brown sugar, and let it cook for a few hours. The smell was heavenly and Guy waited impatiently. "Do you think it will be any good?" How as I supposed to know, but I said, "If it isn't, we'll get another one."

At the end of the cook time, I removed the bag and sliced the ham. I should say I tried to slice the ham. I ended up pulling pieces from the bone. Jerky. I had made Country Ham Jerky.

I hated to tell Guy but when I handed him a "string" of it no words were needed. "Well, I guess the animals in the neighborhood will have a good Christmas dinner." He took the ham and tossed it into the thicket. The basement continues to remind us of what we missed.

I don't blame the ham; I think I did not take care of it properly. As far as Guy's breakfast, he filled up on country ham and biscuits, but this ham came in packages from Clifty Farms.

I'll leave the country ham to them.

This story was posted on 2016-02-04 04:44:30
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