Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Goin' Ham

Willie Dixon--"Spoonful" (mp3)

Once for a friend's birthday, I bought him a ham.  He seemed befuddled, even disinterested, but I only had time to go to a grocery store before his party, and I didn't want to buy him beer.  I thought a ham was a great gift.  I'll bet he used it.  Me, I'd take a ham any day of the week.  As one of my children has been known to say, "I love ham."

In our family, if you really go to town on something, you are said to be "going ham" on it, usually in the past tense, as in "Man, you really went ham on it."  It's that ingrained in our lives, and my wife is a vegetarian.

The two drawbacks to being Jewish:  Jesus and ham.

Which brings me to my present circumstances.  I don't know if you get hams for Christmas, but my wife does, or did at her old firm.  So I'm going through the freezer a few days ago and there sits a perfectly-good half ham, seven or months down the road or more from when we got it, supposedly 4 months past its prime. But we know better, don't we?  Ham doesn't go bad; ham only goes good.

The funny thing about ham is that it's associated with winter, with big, heavy meals, with holiday celebrations, with buffet spreads where someone is wearing a turtleneck.  I get that, though I hate to see a ham fenced in like that.  And now, I've gone ham outside the box.

Because me, I took that bad boy out of the freezer and let it thaw completely and today I cooked it up.  That's right.  In the middle of the hottest days of the summer, I poured a cup or so of white wine in the bottom of a roasting pan, put the ham in face down, covered it with foil, and baked it all afternoon at a low temperature.  And then I put that Wal-Mart cinnamon/sugar glaze on it and baked it at a high temperature for about a quarter of an hour.  So now I've got a ham.  I couldn't be happier.

As you read this, or don't given the pathetic readership we've had this summer, we sit on the eve of our greatest national day of the year.  So, I've retooled.  Why not ham on the 4th?  I mean, really, why the heck not?  We can't  claim, as Americans, that we created ham, but we certainly made it more ubiquitous than any place else, except maybe Germany, and they're responsible for worse stuff than we are.

Here are my quick, easy, Top Ten uses for a ham that sits in your kitchen in the summer:

1.  Pull slices off.  There aren't many other foods that are as good as soon as they come out of the oven as a ham is, especially if you've gotten a spiral sliced.  Pull off piece, put in mouth, repeat.

2.  The Cuban.  If you've got real ham and real pork, rather than deli versions, then you get closer to an actual Cubano, the great sandwich of ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, dill pickle, and mustard on pressed bread.

3.  Ham salad.  Is a great summer salad--the blend of pulverized ham, mayo, dill pickle, hard-boiled eggs, a little mustard, salt and pepper, is far more flavorful than chicken, tuna, or egg salad.  Though why any of them count as a salad, I'm not sure.  Great as an appetizer on saltines, where someone would be likely to call it deviled ham.

4.  Breakfast omelets.  Let's face it, the Western is the ultimate omelet, and now you have the ham for it.

5.  Ham loaf.  Made one for my dad tonight for his 4th celebration, since I'll be out of town.  It's like meatloaf, only with ham and either turkey, pork, or veal.  And what a sandwich it makes the next day.

6.  Greens.  Anything bacon or pork fat can do, ham can do at least as well.  Plus, you'll actually want to eat it when you come across it in your turnip greens or collards.

7.  Scalloped potatoes and ham.  Layers of potato, ham, and onion in milk and butter, baked in the oven until tender.  I'm sure it's some kind of "stretcher" from the Depression, but it's comfort food to me.  Or would be if I wasn't the one who had to make it.

8.  Hawaiian pizza or a calzone.  Ham is great on pizza, better with some pineapple, too, and even better with some onion in the mix as well.  And a ham and cheese calzone holds up about as well as anything.

9. Using that bone for bean or pea soup. Well, you probably already do this. It sure makes for a great soup. I'll have to look and see if there's any summer soup that would benefit from a hambone, since I'm not exactly craving split pea soup in this heat.

10.  Dinner.  I guess you could just serve the thing for supper with some mashed potatoes and green beans.  I can't imagine that anyone would complain  But, somehow, a plain ol' ham dinner seems like a disservice, an underutilization, if you will, of this salted beast. 

Ham is more the Sundance Kid than it is Butch Cassidy; it can get you out of a tight situation, but it doesn't necessarily want to run the show.  It can be a loner, sure, but it's happier as a team player.  It would rather play the lead guitar (or even the rhythm) than actually sing the song.  Everything is better with a little ham.  Even the summer.

Happy 4th, everybody!

Billy has been out-of-pocket in unplanned ways the past few days and needed a last minute blogpost to step in for him and give you all some solid nourishment.  Just like ham..


Anonymous said...

While I love a plain ole tomato and mayo sandwhich in the summer, slapping a piece of real ham (not deli) is definitely a treat. Rarely happens this time of year as you mentioned, but thanks to your blog, I may go "full ham" this week.

Bob said...

Do it! Nothing better than ham with a ripe tomato.

Billy said...

Bob - Unless you count bacon as ham, I strongly (almost violently) disagree with you and must defend the superior honor of bacon. Wars have begun over less pertinent debates.

Bob said...

Let's just meet at "smoked, cured pork meat" and I think we can reach across the aisles? Or are you an entrenched "Bacon Conservative"?