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August 22, 2007


The Maximum Leader

I will do my best to attend any barbeque to which you would choose to invite me.

I have to say that I don't have a particular favorite style of barbeque. It depends on my mood mostly. Of late I've just been smoking pork ribs after brining them and letting them absorb a fragrant rub. I know some North Carolinians who would claim that the introduction of tomatos to a barbeque is akin to denouncing the The Trinity. Your recipe sounds great. I'll have to give it a try when Smallholder gets me my pig. (Which should be in a few short weeks.)

Mrs. Peperium

"I know some North Carolinians who would claim that the introduction of tomatos to a barbeque is akin to denouncing the The Trinity"

I knew I was running that risk but since I also had the shredded pork recipe from that Virginian resort with the underground bunker for Congress and it included tomato -albeit a thicker sauce, I decided to give it a whirl. I kept the sauce at a thin broth consistency like Mr. P instructed -may have even added some apple juice to aid in the broth consistency but you could always add a beer, I suppose. Since the Virginian resort included tomato perhaps it was Virginian barbeque?

By the way, what is the national dish of Virginia? If it is Smithfield ham, could you tell us the most popular as well as the authentic preparation? Thanks.

Old Dominion Tory

There are two methods for dealing with a properly cured Virginia ham. The ham will be between nine and twelve pounds and comes in a cloth bag.
The "traditional" method takes four steps:
1) Scrub the ham in order to remove as much of the salt as possible.
2) Place the ham in a large container, cover with cold water, let it stand 10-12 hours or overnight, and change the water every 2-4 hours.
3) Drain the ham, place it in a deep pot, skin side up, and cover it with cold water.
4) Cover the pot, heat to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer 20 to 25 minutes per pound.

The oven method is to scrub and soak the ham as in Steps 1 and 2 above. You then place the ham in a roasting pan, fat side up. Pour in water to a depth of about two inches, cover the ham, and place it in a 325°F oven. Basting frequently, roast the ham for 20 to 25 minutes per pound. Baste frequently. You'll know the ham is done when the flat bone moves easily.

Now, in both cases, after the cooking is donw, you remove the skin, sprinkle with brown sugar and other spices (or make your own glaze) and brown lightly in a 375°F oven.

One of my favorite uses of the Virginia ham is to make ham biscuits and then wash them down with mint juleps made with Virginia's own Virginia Gentleman Bourbon whiskey.

Hubbs' boiled and salted peanuts make an excellent snack to eat while you're cooking and/or mixing.

Also, unless a ham is made in Smithfield County, it cannot be called a "Smithfield ham."

Mrs. Peperium

Ok, to the sound of dueling banjoes, I make carmelized bermuda onions enhanced with a splash of good balsamic vinegar. Then split open the 1" diameter homemade butter, not Crisco, biscuits with a fork, place a slice of thin slice of ham, and a dollop of the carmelized onions on top... Pass with cocktails.

The Maximum Leader

ODT, has got the two primary ways of preparing a "country" ham (generally) or a "Smithfield" ham (specifically). I've always boiled mine. I also tend to soak them longer. Often for a day or two (changing water frequently). Then sometimes, after boiling, I've put them in the oven for a short time (after trimming the fat) with some sort of glaze to make a nice crust. Honestly, I only do that when "presentation" is important. The ham will "look" better if it has a nice crispy glaze. Frankly I think the glaze detracts from the ham. But sometimes you have to follow instructions from on high...

I too love the ham biscut. I am salivating just thinking about one. I could not put anything on my ham biscut. (Provided the ham was Smithfield ham.) I wouldn't mind getting a honeybaked ham and putting on the carmelized bermuda onions and a splash of balsamic. But that is a different beastie all together.

I don't believe there is an "official" state food here in Virginia. If there was I am sure it would be the Smithfield Ham. (Although peanuts might also rank up there. Also... I don't know why but Maryland seems to have cornered the crab market. Even though half of the Chesapeake bay is Virginia... We have great crab shacks in VA.)

As ODT points out, the "appelation" of "Smithfield" is tightly controlled - as well as internationally recognized. You may see "Virginia Style" hams or "Virginia Cured" hams in your local supermarket, but unless they were cured in Smithfield or Isle of Wight County, they aren't Smithfield hams.

As for the tomato in the sauce. As I said, I am moody when it comes to barbeque. I don't belong to a particular "school" of sauce. I do have a friend from the "North Carolina" school who does make a vinegar based sauce to drizzel over her cooked meat. I know she puts apple juice in to soften the acid of the vinegar. Alas, I don't know the other ingredients as they are a family secret.

The Maximum Leader

I should also add that I would be delighted if someone would bake me a train cake. It would be wonderful...

Fr. M.

Mrs. P., ODT and Leader,
I have enjoyed this post and subsequent comments tremendously, having gone to college in North Carolina and having been spoiled there with four years worth of wonderful barbecue.

ODT, you brought back some great memories. My father used to get a ham every Christmas from a farm in Wise County, Virginia and annually engaged in the preparation process you described.

Leader, I will gladly yield to your teachings on pork, but I must tell you that half of the Chesapeake Bay does not belong to Virginia. Maryland owns every drop of water in the Bay. Since the (cough, cough) War of Northern Aggression, the boundaries of Maryland have extended to the high water mark of the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. Back in The Day, a couple of resort communities sprang up near Colonial Beach, Virginia (known as the 'Redneck Riviera')because restaurants could put slot machines on piers and they were technically in Maryland where gambling was legal. A few years ago there was a bit of a kerfuffle because Loudon County put a pipe in the Potomac to obtain water and Maryland got all crabby about it.

Mrs. Peperium

Honeybaked Ham? Surely Maxy, you jest? Honeybaked is for children. Why it's dipped in sugar!

The Detroit area is home to the largest population of Polish people outside of Poland -though all those Polish plumbers fleeing to France, England and spain may change this. Also, there is a very large German population. We may not have peanut-fed hams, but we have excellent local hams. There is one smokehouse that I go to, (which has become a dangerous undertaking and now send Mr. P) where your order your meats in either German or Polish. We have to do a lot of hand gestures but we usually get what we want. Then there's another much larger smokehouse (Dearborn) which makes great hams. We get an unglazed spiral sliced one and I glaze it with a mixture of mango chutney, garlic, mustard, brown sugar, orange juice, and orange zest. Bake until a gleaming mahogany brown and place on a willow platter surrounded by sliced oranges and greenery. Gorgeous to look at, gorgeous to eat. Ask anyone at our home on Christmas Eve.

Those hams are the hams that make it into my ham biscuits... The carmelized bermuda onions just add that little extra you rarely find elsewhere which is the secret to good entertaining...

Then, there's what I do with sausages....

Mrs. Peperium

Father M., I'm glad you're enjoying the conversation and now you are tipping us over into Maryland. I'm very fond of a good smoked turkey. There's a smokehouse in Texas that makes the world's best smoked turkey. I do a minature dried cranberry or dried blueberry scone with thin slices of this smoked turkey to pass with cocktails. Men seem to enjoy those alot too.

Mrs. Peperium

Maxy, train cake? One of us will have to move closer to the other, but I'll make you one. They are fun.

Old Dominion Tory

I think that Virginia has jurisdiction over some of The Bay's southern part, Father M. I recall that some sort of line was drawn (probably starting around the MD-VA border on the Eastern Shore). Otherwise, there would not have been the marvelously colorful episodes known as "the the Oyster Wars" in the 1880s. During them, the Governor of Virginia called out the militia to man boats that chased "oyster pirates" in Virginia's waters. As you'll see by the account below, there was a delightful opera bouffe quality to the affair--to include seasick militia men--that I'm Gilbert and Sullivan would have done proud.

Old Dominion Tory

Mrs. Peperium: Speaking of sausages, do you ever make bacon-wrapped sausages? If so, how do you go about it? What sausages and bacon do you use?

Mrs. Peperium

Bacon-wrapped sausages? No. My theory with sausages is to buy the very best you can -quite often not the most expensive (I get mine from a fellow that once danced with Ginger Rogers), then they do not need any extra pork fat.

I must run out for several hours. When I get back, I will tell you Virginian men what I do with sausage. As it invloves a few of your local ingredients, it will slay you - guarranteed...

Mrs. Peperium

Maxy, we've just gotten back about 3 hours later than expected and we were almost hit by a train which wasn't my fault at all and it's 95 degrees and I'm hot and tired and my head aches but the children finally have appropriate shoes. I'll tell you tomorrow.

Oh, and I'm a complete traitor. I also managed to somehow find a new sausage man. And he's 23. The other guy has 60 years on him.

Mr. Peperium

Maximum, I have been sent here to tell you that it's true, Mrs. P has indeed found a new sausage man. I have no idea how this will impact our marriage at this time, as I am still trying to get my head around this rather disturbing news. I assume some sort of arrangement will be worked out, some sort of division of labor in which (I hope) I will still figure. But best at this point not to indulge in useless speculation.

On the bright side, while grazing on what was left on the kid's dinner plates when I got home, I came to the inevitable conclusion that her choice was fully justified.

Old Dominion Tory

Mrs. Tory reminded me last night that Maryland has an entry in the race for best ham recipe: Stuffed Ham. The recipe found on the URL provided describes this as a Southern Maryland dish, but I recall it being popular on the Eastern Shore as well.
As you'll see, making it is quite a process, involving a stuffing of kale, cabbage, and watercress and the use of a t-shirt (I recall a pillow case in one cookbook) during cooking.
Another Maryland food quirk is serving sauerkraut with the Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey. And, of course, no Maryland holiday dinner is complete without oysters as the opening course!

Mrs. Peperium

ODT, when first the subject of a national dish of Viringia was broached, my first thought was of a stuffed ham. Obviously like those Father M. described living on the Cheasapeake, my boundaries of Maryland and Virginia are off a tad. I would also said stuffed Smithfield ham, but that would have been very wrong as you say corned ham. And Maxy would never allow the stuffing of a Smithfield ham. Is corned ham a 'country ham'? The stuffing ingredients were right on the money though.

Now since Maxy was speaking of White House weddings recently, I happen to have the menu for Nellie Grant's wedding breakfast. It is quite admirable and she also wore white which is most admirable as brides wearing white really meant something in her day. These days it most often means a lack of imagination or a disconnect from reality, no?

Nellie's Wedding Breakfast:

Soft-Shelled Crabs on toast

Chicken Croquettes with green peas

Lamb cutlets with Tatre Sauce

Aspic of Beef Tongue

Woodcock and Snipe on Toasts

Salad with Mayonnaise

Strawberries with Cream

Orange Baskets garnished with Strawberries

Charlottle Pudding

Nesselrode Pudding


Ice Cream garnished with Preserved Friuts

Water Ices

Wedding Cake

Small Fancy Cakes

Roman Punch

Chocolate (Hot, I'm guessing)


Apparently President Grant always served so many courses that a Roman Punch was served after the meat course to aid the digestion and general discomfort of his honored guests. His Roman Punch was one quart of lemon sherbet mixed with one cup of dark rum and placed in prettiest glass dishes. That would certainly remove any discomfort, no?

Now for what I do with sausages that slays men...

Men love cornbread, no? And men love pork no?
What is the main ingredient of cornbread - cornmeal. Like ham goes so well with cornbread, pork sausages are a natural with poloenta. Or the Northern Italians have always believed so, And I bow to their knowledge.

Polenta is a variation on cornbread (really hoecake) of sorts as it is just water, salt and cornmeal) -though down your way Maxy and ODT, you could say cornmeal mush is a form of polenta. and it is indeed it's 3rd or 4th much poorer cousin. As it is made much quicker and lacks the creamy quality of the long slow Italian method.

Some do make it with milk and jazz it up with cheese but it doesn't need it at all.

I make an appetizer that the recipe oringinally called for bacon but Mr. P, after loving it, said "You should try that with sausage." Basically, I very slowly make a proper polenta, then I add cooked crumble sausage (plain), grated cheddar cheese, and fresh thyme leaves. You pour the mixture out onto a cookie sheet with sides to a thickness of about 1/4" let set. Then cover with a nice coating of more cheddar cheese and bake. Cut into small diagonals and serve warm with a red wine (And lots of napkins).

Mr. P loves it when I make him a batch of polenta, and while it is still soft, place a mound of it on a soup plate and then spoon over piggy sausages that have been braised in onions, tomatoes,and sweet bell peppers.

Serious Happy Camper Time.

Old Dominion Tory

A corned ham is NOT a country ham. The former is soaked in a brine; the latter is rubbed with salt, liquid never touches it.
Most stuffed ham recipes I have seen call for a fresh ham, vice a corned one. In fact, the recipe I posted is the first I have seen that calls for a corned ham.
As to polenta, here in The Valley, we jokingly refer to it as "Italian grits" and grits as "Virginia (or Rebel) polenta."
I see Nellie's breakfast started with soft-shell crabs on toast. The recipe I remember for soft shell crabs is simplicity itself.
12-18 soft-shell crabs
1-2 cups of flour
1-3 tablespoons of Old Bay Seasoning (and ONLY Old Bay, thank you)
A stick or two of butter
1) Dress crabs
2) Combine flour and Old Bay in large bowl.
3) In a large cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
4) Dredge crabs in flour, shake off excess.
5) Fry (with this much butter you aren't sauteeing) crabs until golden brown on each side.
6) Whether in a sandwich, on toast, or just plain, enjoy with a Wild Goose Amber Ale. http://www.wildgoosebrewery.com/beer.html

Mrs. Peperium

Wild Goose Amber Ale is one of my favorites.

I don't like soft-shell crab as each time I take a bite, I keep waiting for the crunch, which never happens and it makes me wonder if I've drunk too much or lost my faculties. Then I recall, oh, that's right, they're not supposed to crunch... Trying on the old nerves.

But bolied Maryland Blue crab is a favorite. 7 summers ago we did a real backyard Maryland crab boil. I ordered two baskets of crab- and they sent them (cooked) in those real crab baskets and the Old Bay was still sticking to the crabs. It was a blast. We had all sorts of salads, chips, beers, and wine. A friend made lemon meringue pies and I made cherry-berry lattice pies for dessert. I also sewed a crab crown...a giant stuffed gold lame crown with a blue tuft that has a stuffed red lame crab sitting on top of it wearing a gold lame crown. His claws hang down over the rim of the crown. At the end of the night we all took turns wearing it and telling the stories of our most embarrasing moments...

Mr. P wears it now when we play bingo with the kids...

Father M.

The Churches in Southern Maryland usually have two fundraising dinnes a year. One dinner is stuffed ham and the other, needless to say, is Oysters and blue crab...

Andrew Cusack

Oh, Oyster Wars! You want Oyster Wars? We've had Oyster Wars. Used to drive the Dutch mad, all those English from Connecticut.

You see, the oysters on this side of the border ("ostrea neo-nederlandicus", to give the jargonese) are simply superior in every way to the Connecticut oysters ("ostrea waspus inbredicus").

As always, I recommend Washington Irving on the subject.

Mrs. Peperium

"Oh, Oyster Wars! You want Oyster Wars?"

Why, Mr. Cusack, I believe I do. WITH YOU!

Consider the gauntlet tossed.

You, me, and an oyster bar of your choosing. I'll stick with the inferior oysters from Connecticut. You stick with superior New York varieties. Feel free to down all of yours with any condiment you need, including vodka. I take mine plain. The first one, as they say, to come a cropper loses.

And picks up the tab.

Andrew Cusack

I'm afraid I don't eat oysters, so Crackie will have to take up the challenge.

Mrs. Peperium

Andrew, Andrew, Andrew, now we need to talk. About oysters. Unless there is a medical reason behind your not partaking of the oyster, I consider the not eating of them at your age most unwise.

Why? Because it will severely dampen your efforts in the finding of the perfect young prune of which to feed out of the same crib for life. What happens if your perfect young prune walks right into your life and she fancies oysters? And if she were to find out you did not fancy them went and gave you the raspberry before you had the chance to employ the old Ickenham system?

I know of a perfect, young prune who was once in the posish I describe. It was me. I found the perfect man to feed out of the same crib for life and had he told me he was not a partaker of the oyster, I would have given him the boot. Do you know all of the early dates of Mr. P and I took place at oyster bars? Well, I guess you wouldn't, would you? They did. The reason is there's nothing more matey, than going to an oyster bar with a cute fella that can talk and have a few pints and a few plates of oysters. You'll learn that oysters and pints are most conducive to delightful discussions of just about anything.

Now, Mr. P was bluffing his way through the oyster bar dates, girded up by Bass Ale. It was actually at one of those joints he, over a lovely pint of ale, confessed that I was an "unavoidable thing" in his life. "A rock in his path that he'd never be able to get around". Now, what kind of perfect young prune doesn't want to hear that?

After Mr. P had sealed the deal by appearing at the altar at the appointed time and saying all the things he was required to say, only then did he say it was his most definite intention to never eat another oyster in his life.

Which is almost true. He no longer eats raw oysters. Cooked oysters he will eat, almost happily too, as they are a different kettle of fish.

When casting about for a young lady, the only limits and restrictions should be ones of character. Adding dietarty restrictions makes the whole thing that much more of a complex undertaking.

Mr. Peperium

The things one forgets with the passing of years. I had deleted from my files any recollection that I had once compared the woman I wanted to marry with a mass of immovable igneous matter. Wow. What a gift for the honeyed phrase. What a mastery of the polished period. If I can succeed on that brand of romantic rhetoric, you should have no problems overcoming this oyster obstacle.

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