Friday, February 18, 2011

Season to Taste

Has the American taste for salt increased over the years? From my point of view, after spending years looking at and working with 19th and early 20th century recipes, the answer is a resounding Yes! For example, many of the old biscuit recipes I've come to enjoy don't call for salt. The sodium in the baking soda or "saleratus" is enough for satisfaction. Directions for using home or commercially canned vegetables in the 19-teens call for draining off the salty canning liquid and rinsing them. A good many of the sharp, savory or sweet sauces a good homemaker stored in her pantry were light on salt, yet filled with flavor. I'll discuss them in a following commentary.

Then there are the recipes for ham.

A good many of them call for soaking the smokehouse-hung hams overnight, the scrubbing them to remove the layers of salt, cayenne pepper and mold. Then boiling them and finally roasting. This recipe perfect for today's ordinary cooked hams, not the cotton-bagged Smithfield salt-cured versions. Slow simmering exchanges some of the salt with the flavor of the delightful wine and vegetable infused broth. This process works wonders with the cheapest ham, Canadian bacon and even Turkey ham. Folks will say it is, "the best ham" they've ever eaten. I'll store leftovers in the refrigerator for a day or two in some of the broth.

Wonderful 1867 Ham

3- to 5-pound ham
2 bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 whole cloves
4 cloves garlic
small bunch parsley
small bunch fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried leaves
1/2 bottle white wine

This can be cooked in a a slow cooking "crock pot", a covered heavy roasting pan in a 325 degree F. oven, or on top of the stove, Score the rind of the ham and put it in the slow cooker or large pot with a lid. Add remaining ingredients and enough water to cover the meat. Simmer until the meat is tender 3 to 5 hours, or longer in the slow cooker on low.