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Southern Marylanders love their stuffed ham



Editor’s note: Jane and Jim Antonovich of Alexandria, Va., spend their summers on Gouldsboro Point. Jane, a self-described Air Force brat, lived all around the world before settling in the Washington, D.C., area.

The early half of her career was spent on Capitol Hill working on the House Appropriations Committee. She then served as the Department of Treasury’s director of financial enforcement, ensuring that countries met international standards on anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing.

In her spare time, Jane raised three kids and a husband.

By Jane Antonovich

My husband, Jim, was born and raised in St. Mary’s County, Md., an area surprisingly similar to Downeast Maine. It is where water is king and where watermen define the landscape and economy.

Rather than lobsters and clams, southern Maryland is all about blue crabs and oysters. The work is just as taxing and the demands of that work mold a rugged, honest individualism. Perhaps this is why we feel so at home in Gouldsboro. Certainly we could never be far from the ocean.

The history of stuffed ham dates to early 17th century Maryland, where it is believed slaves working on the plantations created the recipe. After butchering the hogs, the plantation owner would keep the finer cuts of pork — ham and bacon, and also sausages — for himself and then give the lesser parts to the slaves. To make the best of what they had, the slaves added fresh vegetables from the garden to their meat rations and boiled everything together in a cloth bag.

Once the plantation owner tasted the delicious blend of pork and greens made from the lesser cuts and realized that the recipe worked well with the more desirable ham portion, the stuffed ham found its place on the master’s dining table.

Southern Maryland stuffed ham is a true local delicacy and begins to appear at Thanksgiving and Christmas tables. It is unheard of beyond the tri-county areas of Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s County, Md. It has, however, appeared at a White House dinner, and its recipe graces the Congressional cookbook. All recipes differ little with only the ratio of cabbage to kale changing, depending upon that year’s harvest and the accessibility of each in the various areas of the region.

Each recipe, though, begins with a corned ham, and the days-long work of corning a ham is indicative of the willingness of the southern Marylanders to roll their sleeves up and dig right in. I, however, was raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., so I begin with an already prepared corned ham, usually available at local groceries in the tri-county area. The result is an extremely moist, succulent ham full of stuffing with almost every bite. And each bite brings me back to family celebrations.

 

Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham

 

Ingredients:

12-14 lb. corned ham with short hock (deboned)

1 Tbsp. cracked peppercorns

2 lb. kale

1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes

2 lb. cabbage

1 Tbsp. mustard seed

2 lb. water or field cress

2 Tbsp. celery seed

1 bunch celery

1 tsp. sage

1 bunch spring onions

1 tsp. thyme

2 Tbsp. fresh parsley tips

2 Tbsp. dry mustard

3 Tbsp. plain salt

1 tsp. Tabasco sauce

1 Cup white wine or ham liquor, if needed to soften stuffing

 

Note: If water or field cress is unavailable, increase kale or cabbage by 1 lb.

 

Preparation:

Par blanches ham for about 20 minutes. Remove skin while the ham is still warm. Trim off excess fat and return to water in which it has just been cooked. Allow to cool in liquor. Set aside.

Prepare vegetables for stuffing: Clean all vegetables thoroughly. Shake dry then chop fine. Mix all dry seasonings before adding to stuffing.

Mix chopped green vegetables and seasonings thoroughly in a large tub. Add 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce mixed with 1 cup of white wine or ham liquor to moisten stuffing.

Prepare ham for stuffing: After ham has cooled, remove from liquor and pat dry. Save liquor. Starting at the butt end of the fat side of the ham, cut vertical slits 2 inches apart through to the bone cavity. Make a second row of slits 2 inches up from the first row. Two slits only in the second row, making sure the slits in the second row are not parallel with the slits in the first row and so on to the ham hock. Make sure one slit of stuffing does not split into another. This is important so be very careful when cutting slits.

Place ham in a large tub with stuffing. Insert stuffing firmly with fingers but do not push too hard, as you are likely to rupture ham. Continue to pack stuffing into slits until each cavity will hold no more. Place excess stuffing across top and around ham.

Wrap whole ham and stuffing in cheese cloth, tying it tightly and making sure the ham is completely covered. Place ham back in original water used to par blanch, add more water if necessary to cover ham. Bring back to slow boil.

Cook 20 minutes per pound. Ham is done when thermometer reads 160 degrees F. Allow ham to cool in pot liquor for about 2 hours. Remove, place on wire rack and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Remove cloth. Slice ham very thin against the stuffing slits. Serve cold. Never serve hot.

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