Country Ham

Total Time:
52 hr 30 min
Prep:
48 hr
Cook:
4 hr 30 min

Yield:
20 portions

Ingredients
  • 1 country (dry cured) ham
  • 1 liter Dr. Pepper
  • 1 cup sweet pickle juice, optional
Directions

Unwrap ham and scrub off any surface mold (if you hung in a sack for 6 months you'd have mold too). Carefully remove hock with hand saw. (If this idea makes you eye your first aid kit, ask your butcher to do it. But make sure you keep the hock, it's the best friend collard greens ever had.)

Place ham in cooler and cover with clean water. (As long as it's not too dirty you can use what southerners call the "hose pipe"). Stash the cooler in the bushes. If it's summer, throw in some ice. If it's freezing out, keep the cooler inside. Change the water twice a day for two days turning the ham each time.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place ham in a large disposable turkey-roasting pan and add enough Dr. Pepper to come about halfway up the side of the ham. Add pickle juice if you've got it and tent completely with heavy-duty foil. Cook for 1/2 hour then reduce heat to 325 degrees F, and cook another 1 1/2 hours.

Turn the ham over, insert an oven safe thermometer (probe-style is best) and cook another 1 1/2 hours, or until the deepest part of the ham hits 140 degrees F (approximately 15 to 20 minutes per pound total).

Let rest 1/2 hour then slice paper-thin. Serve with biscuits or soft yeast rolls.

Cooks note: Even after soaking, country ham is quite salty, so thin slicing is mandatory. If you're a bacon fan, however, cut a thicker (1/4-inch) slice and fry it up for breakfast.


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    Why would you ruin country ham like this? Slice it thin, slap it on a biscuit and enjoy the best breakfast ever. Don't soak it in water, don't soak it in cola, don't soak it in anything. Throw some slices in a frying pan and fry it till it's got some nice browning, flip it and do the same and slap it on a biscuit. Embrace the salty ham goodness. It's how a country ham was made to be eat. While Alton Brown is my favorite chef on Food Network and The Cooking Channel (I love Good Eats) I'm going to have to disagree on this one.
    Oh my gosh!! This was the best ham ever. I have cooked country ham for years and could never get it tender enough. I served it with biscuits, red eye gravy, and homemade blackberry jam. Absolutely fab!
    This recipe was great! The meat is very moist, and the flavor is fabulous. My family thought that it turned out to be one of the best country hams that they had ever tasted. I know that I will definitely use this recipe again.
    We purchased our 20lb ham at a little shop in Culpeper, VA, called Calhoun's, their hams have been served at the White House. We soaked our ham for 3 days due to its size to add moisture and I followed Alton's recipe for cooking but chose to let it sit for a day, removed the rind, leaving at 1/2 inch of fat, I then chose to add a glaze just to give the ham a little zip and some color. I scored the top in a diagonal pattern, added whole cloves made a glaze of 1 sm can of crushed pineapple, 1 cup packed dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup of dijon mustard and one cup whole cranberries, cooked for about 10 minutes then added 1/4 cup kentucky bourbon.(Woodford Reserve Took my immersion blender to the glaze to smooth it, cooked for about 10 mintues more, then brushed all over the top of the ham. My mother-in-law raved about the ham, my husband said it was the best he's ever had. It might be a long process but the flavor, aroma and smiles on faces was so worth the effort.
    So, you basically made something totally different but scored this recipe 5*? That doesn't make any sense
    This was a excellent recipe. I liked it. My family LOVED it! Preparing the Ham took forever, but at least it was a good way to take the salt out. Your recipe was a hit on Thanksgiving, and I'll make sure it stays a hit on X-mas.
    This recipe was great!!!!! I found it too late to soak it for 2 days but it still turned out wonderful, juicy and tender and good flavor. This is the 2nd Alton Brown recipe I have used and he hasn't failed me yet. Way to go Alton!!! You make this less than average cook look like a genius.
    I cooked a country ham using this method and the end product made this southern gal proud!!!
    True country ham has as many recipes as there are family traditions. I come from a 3rd generation, where we always slowly hot-soaked/boiled ham first, then finished it in the oven. Mr. Brown has--no surprise to me with his background--come up with a marvelous way to simply bake the ham straight through. Well done Alton!!! 
     
    I did two hams, about a month apart. First Mr. Brown's, as prescribed. Second, I soaked the ham a bit longer and leached more of the salt out prior to my heated soaking/boiling approach. Then I made up a 3 generations old glaze made with orange juice and rind, brown sugar, a small handful of other "top secret" family seasonings and finished the ham in the oven until the glaze was well adhered and carmalized. Because of my history, it too was marvelous. In fact, with the Dr. Pepper cooking liquid, I may have fancied it a bit more than our usual approach.
    I have used this recipe twice and am so totally happy with it, and our guests, that our last guest is driving 894 miles this New Years so that she and her husband can have it -- with our black-eyed peas, slaw, potatoe salad, etc., etc. etc. and beers. It really takes a good quality ham to make it work....cheap imitation country hams should be used as catfish bait.
    We cannot eat country ham, up North here, our blood pressure won't tolerate it! I have soaked country hams and boiled them and they are still too salty! SO, we substituted a regular bone-in ham sugar cured in the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition. This recipe works great with that too. In fact, it is always a request at Christmas and whenever we bake a ham. There is something about the Dr. Pepper flavor that enhances the flavor of the ham to perfection. It is incredibly easy too. I would recommend it to even a novice cook (using a regular ham that doesn't require soaking) for that first big family dinner. They won't be disappointed! 
     
    I still put a brown sugar, clove, dry mustard and pineapple juice paste on it in the last half an hour for that wonderful crispy crust. The only caveat is that you cannot make gravy with the pan drippings. We just get a ham base (a demi-glaze if you will) from the butcher and use that to make gravy. 
     
    This ones a keeper!
    For me this ham came out a little too salty. Also, I had trouble knowing how to cut it. I think this recipe works better to put in soups or hashes, and not so well with just eating for Christmas.
    Being born and raised in the south, I can tell you that country ham is a staple of our diet. Okay, we don't eat it every single day like our parents did, but we always have ham in the freezer! We buy one, have part of it sliced thin leave part of it for a good sized whole ham and of course ALWAYS save the hock and have it cut into several pieces. (The hock makes the best bean soup ever not to mention seasoning greens.) Anyway, when we get home we put the ham
     that we aren't getting ready to cook into zip lock freezer bags with wax paper in between the slices and put them into the freezer for future cooking. The slices can be used to bake in the oven, to fry, or to grill. IF the ham is a very salty one you will be able to tell by how white the ham is before you put it into the freezer. These can always be boiled ahead of time to remove much of the salt. Once in a great while we'll get one that is so darn salty that it is almost inedible. All county hams are not created equal. I don't know what causes this, but we eat 2-3 whole hams per year and this happens about every 4 years or so, so you do the math. Usually they can be saved by boiling, but sometimes we just go ahead and use these for seasoning veggies, soups, whatever. So...
     if you are one of the unlucky ones to get a VERY salty ham, don't give up. Try it again. It is very unusual to get one that's too salty after soaking. Of course, I am from the south and have been eating salt cured country ham slices since before I could walk. We don't usually soak the slices or anything before frying or grilling, but I do sprinkle with a little brown sugar, left over coffee and water
     and simmer on the stove. It's to die for.
     Anyway, if it's too salty for you soak, then boil the ham for 30min or so, then move onto the cooking method adding brown sugar to the water. I would use about 1 cup or so.
     You might just love it like we southerners do!
     
    Come on people its salt cured ham, its suposed to be salty. That is the reason Mr. Alton shows how to cook a country ham without being as salty as it was prior to soaking and cooking. Clifty Farms has the best country ham, it is not as salty as most brands and works great for this recipe.I never new country ham could be so delicious cooked as a whole this way. If you like country ham just a little you have got to try this recipe.
    I never thought of fixing country ham like this. I went ahead and had our butcher slice the ham and remove the ham hock. Then I took only the slices that we were going to eat for the next day and soaked it in water in the fridge. Put the slices on a roasting pan with the Dr. Pepper and water and it came out great. To Raoul in Englewood, FL......Maybe you could boil the rest of your ham in a large stock pot to remove the excess salt. That's how a lot of country people around here in KY do it. They boil it to remove the salt and then they pan fry pieces for breakfast or roast it.
    Much like Matthew from Ft. Worth, mine came out tough and wicked salty. I suspect it was a case of garbage in, garbage out. I'm never buying another Smithfield Country Ham again. I, too, followed the recipe to a "T" and AB has never let me down.
     
     Next question is what can I do to save this 12 pound salt lick? Soak it more?
    Put it out for the deer
    My kids thought the wierd thing hanging out in the cooler was kind of gross - until it was cooked. This is my first time to cook a country ham and it turned out great! Thanks so much for the easy-to-follow directions. My family loves your show!
    Dearest Alton;
     I mean that...Dearest...Your show is the only thing on TV worth watching. I followed this recipie to a "t" and the ham came out too salty to eat and it was very tough as well. Maybe there is a variable worth discussing in your recipie that I missed???
     Thanks;
     Matthew
    Alton you are the king of cooking this ham is havenly my family & I love it and we also love your show Good Eats we also loved watching your 10th annv show we love you.
    Alton has outdone himself again with this recipe. It's simple and results in a delicious and tender ham.
     
     I would suggest that your results will ultimately depend on the quality of ham you start with. In my opinion the absolute best dry cured county ham is from Johnston County Hams in Smithfield - http://www.countrycuredhams.com.
    THIS IS THE WAY I MAKE MY HAM EXCEPT THE NIGHT BEFORE, I MARINATE MINE WITH BROWN SUGAR AND WATER, THE NEXT MORNING BEFORE PREPARING I MIX BROWN SUGAR AND DR PEPPER AND AND INJECT THE INSIDE OF THE HAM AND PUT BACK IN REFRIGERATOR FOR A COUPLE OF HOURS BEFORE COOKING. THIS RECIPE COMES OUT SO JUICY AND AWESOME. ALSO TRY PUTTING PINEAPPLES AND CHERRIES ON THE HAM AS WELL AND COOK. TASTES GREAT
    We made this recipe with a smoked ham and it was the most tender ham we have ever had. You couldn't even use a fork to pick up a piece, because it fell apart. We had many compliments from our guests. And when you reheat the leftovers (yes, there were leftovers only because we made enough food to feed 50 when we were only expecting 25), it continues to be extremely moist, but not watery. The only recommedation is if you are using the disposable pan (which we recommend since its one less dish to clean up before you can enjoy the party) is to put a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan under for support when moving the ham. THUMBS UP!!!
     
    I used this recipe with a traditional whole smoked ham (not salt cured like the country ham) - and it turned out awesome - the 20 lb. ham took about 4.5 hours to cook. I took the temp to 425 for 45 minutes to start, as my ham was big, and turned it at the 2 hour mark - so sweet, so moist - the hit of thanksgiving (the neighbor overcooked and dried the turkey) - man, was I glad i found this recipe - I'll probably put about a teaspoon of tobasco in it next time for a bit of a kick - 5 STARS all the way
    Very good recipe, first time country ham and was delicious. Thank You Alton!
    This was my first time cooking a country ham. I purchased mine at a local farmers market and was really nervous about how it would turn out.
     But it was delicious! Very tender. The saltiness was less than some country hams I have had. We served it with cheddar biscuits and plain rolls for a party, and have been using leftovers like we would proscuitto. My husband freaked out about using the cooler afterwards for drinks, but we scrubbed it and it's fine.
    Great recipe but I had a heck of a time with the disposable roasting pan. Could not support the 15 lb baby. Bent every which way and Dr. Pepper all over the oven. Next time I'll use my own roasting pan!
    This recipe is fabulous!!! Can't get simpler than this one. Time consuming, yes, but good food is so worth it! I am not usually a big ham fan, but my hubby is... this is great though, especially as someone else said with Ma Mae's biscuits!
    This was the easiest ham I ever made!!! And soooo juicy and tender!! The meat just fell off the bone!
    This is a very tastey style of ham and is very satisfying to your taste buds.
    I made this recipe with a Kiwanis Club country ham we received for Christmas. I soaked it overnight in ice cold water in a portable water cooler, changing the water every 8 hours. Next we followed the recipe as stated with the exception of the optional pickle juice and I left the ham whole,not removing the hock. It made a great New Year's eve/day/week ham. I used a nice chunk to flavor some black-eyed pea soup then diced it up and fried the bits to make some delicious ham lardons for the soup.
     The key is to start with a great, cured country ham. After that, it's hard to go wrong.
    I'm a country ham fan; but my family isn't, & this is a way to prepare it that we all love.
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