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Home chef 12-21-2005 06:21 PM

Virginia ham question
I may have gotten into this a bit over my head so here it goes...

I decided to get a Smithfield bone-in uncooked country ham for Christmas dinner. In the back of my mind I figured baking this ham should be as simple as baking a pre-cooked ham. It would just take a little longer. Anyway, as anxious as I am to get started, I went to the Virginia Company's web site to check out the cooking directions for this ham. This is what I read...

Uncooked, Bone-In Virginia Ham
Storage: Requires no refrigeration prior to cooking. For peak flavor, prepare within 2 months of purchase. Store by hanging in cool, dry place. (If stored longer, ham will continue to dry and become more intensely flavored.)

Preparation: Mold on skin of an aged ham is natural and harmless. Remove by washing with hot water and stiff brush. Can be soaked in hot water overnight to remove salt. If you soak your ham, be sure to change water before cooking.
Cooking: After washing & soaking, place ham in large pan and fully submerge in cold water. Bring water to slow SIMMER (not boil) and maintain for 20-25 minutes per pound (e.g., approximately 5 hours for 12 lb. ham) or until meat thermometer shows internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Add water as needed to keep ham covered. When fully cooked, remove ham from pan and, while still warm, remove skin & trim fat to 1/4-inch thickness. After skin removal and fat trimming, rub 1 cup of glaze (or brown sugar) over ham, score fat in diamond pattern and stud with whole cloves. Bake at 300 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Baking (alternate cooking method): After washing & soaking him, place ham in pan with tight-fitting lid. Pour 5 cups of water over ham, place lid firmly on pan and place in pre-heated oven at 500 degrees F. After 15 minutes, turn off oven. DO NOT OPEN OVEN. In 3 hours, re-heat oven to 500 degrees F., bake for 15 minutes and turn off oven again. (DO NOT OPEN.) Leave ham in oven overnight, or until oven is completely cool. Finally, take ham out of pan, remove skin & trim fat to 1/4-inch thickness. Glaze ham, if desired.

I had no idea I would have to soak the ham to release the salt. Also, the primary cooking directions say to boil the ham initially then dress and bake.

There is an alternative to boiling and that is to bake at 500 for 15 minutes then shut the oven off for 3 hours. Then fire up the oven to 500 for 15 minutes again then off again until completely cool. Then dress the ham.

Herein lies my question... Which is the best method for cooking this ham? I think I would prefer to bake it. I don't quite understand, however, what to do after the two baking cycles. Do I then trim the fat, add the dressing (clove points, pineapple rings, etc.) then bake it a final time? Then what about the drippings for the ham gravy? Will it be floating in a pool of water or will the water steam up into the ham, thus making it plump up? I'm really at a loss here.

Any help??

mudbug 12-21-2005 06:37 PM

I should know this, being a fan of Smithfield hams and a resident of Virginia - but it's been ages since I fixed one.

Smithfields are cured, meaning they have a high amount of salt, so the water thing is important to leach out some of the saline.

Brooksy 12-21-2005 06:41 PM

What a project! Having never done a project like this, and eagerly watching for the replies and suggestions, my tuppence worth would be to go with the first method. The only change I'd make is to do the baking on a hooded barby with extra smoke and longer - hours longer to ensure ham is cooked through to the bone. Temp indication on the barby isn't as good as an oven.

I have only baked cooked hams on the barby and these are usually done at 250 - 350 (opting for the lower ) for upto 8 hours with extra smoke - basically to force the fat out & intensify the flavours.

All the best.

Home chef 12-21-2005 07:12 PM


Oy, thanks for the post, mate. Yea, I'm thinkin' I'm gonna go ahead with the first method of boiling then baking. Not too sure about the grilling though. DOn't have enough experience with such a large hunk o meat. I will definitely entertain the thought though.

Ishbel 12-22-2005 03:20 AM

This is the standard way that we could a large gammon or ham joint in the UK. It always needs to be soaked, simmered for the recommended amount of time. We then peel away the thick skin, leave a layer of the underneath fat and glaze with whatever takes your fancy - usually a honey and mustard glaze, or a marmalade one. Then in the oven to finish off.

auntdot 12-22-2005 03:24 AM

Like Mudbug, have not done one in years, it is truly a pain in the gluteus maximus to prepare one of those beasts.

Now we merely buy slices of country ham.

But it is far better than the city hams we were raised on.

Particularly if you fry the slices and make red eye gravy. (We cheat and use Coke, real Coke, not the diet stuff, instead of coffee, but then we are just dang Northerners who moved South, but we do love it here.)

The first one we did was not a Smithfield and we soaked, and soaked, and soaked the darn thing and then baked it. It still came out saltier than heck.

Given those two methods, I would probably pick the second, the baking one.

Once it comes out of the oven, you can glaze and put it back in for a few minutes, but that is all.

As far as drippings go, I think you will have some but much of the water will be absorbed by the very dry and salty meat.

But you have given me an itch for a real ham.

Let me see, Christmas breakfast, fried eggs, sliced country ham, red eye gravy (made with Coke, try it you will love it), taters, and maybe some sauteed musrooms.

That is living in our neck of the woods.

This was edited because I did not mention the eggs in the breakfast. Sorry.

licia 12-22-2005 03:30 AM

Auntdot, that makes me hungry. I like country ham mostly for breakfast in very thin slices. We ate at a place in the mountains where the ham was great. They even brought us sliced tomatoes to go with it. I'd never had tomatoes for breakfast before, except in juice, but it was very good.

Robo410 12-22-2005 10:15 AM

The first method will give you the best results. A smithfield ham is quite saly and dry, and the slow simmer will do it wonders. Remember, simmer, not a rolling boil.

It seems like a lot of work, but for a fine piece of meat, it is well worth the time. Also, cut very thin slices...it is a rich taste and a dense meat being dry cured etc.


Home chef 12-22-2005 01:43 PM

Oh, I am so mad!!!! Here I am all geared up to cook this ham an, wouldn't you know, The Virginia Company has screwed up my order! Of course they are blaming it on UPS but according to UPS they haven't even received the package from the Virginia Company yet. I just got a call back from TVC and they were sympathetic. Since I will be cooking this ham on the 24th they offered to send me a fully cooked ham overnight. What else can I do? I really wanted to make the uncooked ham but I really don't have much of a choice in the matter now. I'll be really ticked off if the cured ham never arrives. That means they never meant to get my original order off to me. And to think I actually ordered this ham through Amazon. Surely thee shouldn't have been any problems.

Brooksy 12-22-2005 04:27 PM

Home Chef,
If you get your fully cooked ham, don't worry mate. Peel the skin off and bake it for a few hours on low heat basting every half hour or so, then glaze it up and away you go. (I do our's on a hooded barby)

Be positive.

One year we totally forgot to get a ham - talk about a pair of 'blondes' :lol:

We've got 2 to do this year, I'll be doing 1 on 24th & the other for New Years, if the first lasts that long.

You guys over there are really lucky to have the choices you have. Maybe if we had all those choices I'd end up in the rathouse. :lol:

For the baking I skin the ham, fix pineapple rings all over it with toothpicks, cook at 250 - 300 (optimistic) for several hours, basting with a pineapple juice, (dijon) mustard & honey baste. Finish with a glaze of the baste but reduce pineapple juice & add mustard & honey to thicken. Really sweet, but it is only once a year.

Don't worry, be happy. :smile:

Have a great time. All our best wishes to you all.

***Edited & fixed up quite a few typo's - sorry***

Aurora 12-22-2005 07:02 PM


Don't worry, be happy. :smile:
Brooksy, you have a bad attitude!

But I'm with you. Home Chef is getting a two fer.

A magnificent holiday meal pre-cooked (your guests won't know the difference unless you tell them) and the best part, a great story about the time that Amazon screwed up your Christmas.

Follow Brooksy's advice, keep things in perspective.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Home chef 12-22-2005 07:13 PM

Oh yea. It's all good. Not worried in the least. After all, if Amazon screws up again I will just have to improvise once again and create something extraordanarily spectacular from scratch. Either that or I'll just have to go to the market and get a spiral sliced ham:sick:

Home chef 12-24-2005 10:35 AM

OK. Here's an update on my Christmas ham...

It arrived on Thursday as promised. It is WAY bigger than I had anticipated. I have nothing to cook this monster in. It's about 20" long and almost 10" tall and 13" across. By the time this thing arrived all the commercial supply houses were closed and I had to get this thing soaking so I can cook it for dinner on Saturday. I went to the grocery store and bought three of the biggest foil pans I could get. Although these weren't quite big enough or deep enough I got the leg soaking and rotated it every hour or so in the water. That semed to work well. I changed the water a few times throughout the soaking process.

So, this morning it was time to replace the water once again and start simmering the leg. I made a double boiler out of two of the foil pans so as not to burn the meat is it were to come into close contact with the flame. According to the directions I will have to simmer the leg for about 6 hours. The leg is supposed to be completely submerged but since that isn't possible I used the third foil pan to act as a lid and I plan on rotating the leg every 60 minutes so all the flesh will have tome to cook in the water, thud removing even more of the salt.

That's all I have for now. I will update throughout the day. If anyone has any input I'd sure like to hear it.

Robo410 12-24-2005 11:52 AM

gonna be delish and you know it! sounds like you are improvizing just fine

Home chef 12-24-2005 12:46 PM

The first turn over of the leg went well. The skin is taking on a darker color. Almost a light caramel color. I'm still pouring water over it every 15 minutes or so to keep the exposed side moist.

At first simmer I did notice an unusual smell. Not a rancid smell. Just different than that of a fully cooked ham that is just being warmed up. I hope that it's a normal smell.

And, hey, if all else fails I still have another fully cooked Virginia ham from Amazon that showed up yesterday. If this one goes bad I'll just fire that one up in the oven for an hour or so LOL

Home chef 12-24-2005 01:40 PM

Turned it over again. It's starting to grow really good now. I'm replacing about 3-4 cups of water every hour or so to keep the level up. Plus, the wrinkles that were in the skin due to the dehydration are almost completely gone. The skin seems much more tender. It's been on now for about 3 hours. The color is still about the same, a light caramel color. It has taken on a better smell, closer to what I'm used to a ham smelling like.

Home chef 12-24-2005 03:40 PM

The third turn over and so far all seems well. The ham is taking on a much better flavor (or it could be that I'm also baking cookies and cleaning brussel sprouts at the same time LOL). The one thing that kinda conserns me is the color of the meat that's exposed where the leg was detached from the rest of the pig. It's not a bright reddish/pink that I would expect. It's more of a brownish color. Is this normal? Will the center of the ham also be this color when done?

Robo410 12-25-2005 01:22 PM

sound slike all is well ... color can vary from red to browninsh

full report expected!

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