Boiled Virginia Ham
It is said that pigs were brought to Virginia from England during the 1600’s, and the meat developed soon became one of the most popular meats in the cookery of the region. Perhaps it is the acorns, peach pits, peanuts, corn, and maybe some truffles found in the oak forest of Virginia, plus the smoked hickory cure taught by the Virginian Indians, that has given the Virginia ham the delicious flavor for which it is famous.
For those not familiar with cooking Virginia ham: It must first be washed and scrubbed with a stiff brush to remove the moldy covering that usually coats the ham.
Cooking Methodslow cooking
Total Timea day or more
Make Ahead RecipeYes
One Pot MealYes
OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturemeaty, salty, savory, smoky
- A Virginia ham is one “raised and cured in Virginia.” The best are local-cured. The next best is Gwaltney.
Preferably soak overnight in water to cover, then discard the soaking water. Cook in enough cold water to fully cover.
If the ham is being cooked without soaking, the water should be changed midway through cooking. Discard first cooking water and start over with fresh hot water to cover.
Bring the ham to a near simmer, then adjust the burner to hold the cooking to what we always called a mull—just a quiet bubble.
Never let boil; as the meat cooks through the heat will have to be adjusted to keep it below the boil.
Keep the water above the ham by adding hot water as it is cooked away.
Cook for at least 6 hours, at which time the bone begins to protrude at the top of the ham.
Test the ham for tenderness by piercing with an ice pick or a skewer.
If the ham seems too hard, leave to cool in the cooking liquid for 2 hours.
Remove to a rack to drain and set for 15 minutes. Slice with a sharp, wide-bladed knife. It is easier to slice with the skin on while still warm.
Trim some of the skin off the slices and some fat—but not all; ham fat is flavorsome and goes well with the lean in a boiled dinner.
1976 Edna Lewis