The Big Five-O

I just passed my one-year anniversary with WordPress (they sent a card) and I realized that this post is my fiftieth.  Fifty sounds huge, right? What to say? How to commemorate? How’s ’bout with some photos?

I’ve been a busy little bee with these final three baking lab courses. We’ve been buckled down for winter over here in Maryland (which is pretty much like a mild Spring to most other states in the Northeast and New England, but Marylanders take the threat of snow verrrrrrrry seriously…) and it’s been nose to the grindstone for me, so I haven’t done much running around discovering local eats BUT there are a few things I need to do before I split this joint: I need to find a Berger cookie (people love them and tears were flowing last month when the shop closed down for a few weeks), eat at a decent restaurant, and experience the Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham I mentioned last year when I was on that quest for fresh ham. So stay tuned for all that fun.

In the meantime, I’ve got pictures (click on them for the slideshow).  And reservations tonight at Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen, the chef of which is a finalist for the 2013 James Beard Best Chef Mid-Atlantic.

The Aisle of Ham, not The Isle of Ham, even though that does actually sound like my kind of destination vacation

Those of you with me since Easter will remember the fresh ham caper. This investigation led me on a merry chase from store to store to Amish Market and ended with moderate disenchantment when I realized that a fresh ham is just a big pork roast. The culinary balm to this bother was the discovery of the thing called “Maryland Stuffed Ham” which I fully intend to get down with next Easter.

But pork is a year-round preoccupation and right now I’m all about barbecue. Since my aunt programmed my t.v. guide to show only the five or so channels I actually get with basic cable I’ve discovered this show called “BBQ Pitmasters.” It seems to run on a virtual loop but it’s really only 16 episodes so far and I can’t wait to watch every one of them. Each episode involves three contestants trying to outdo each other’s bbq for a shot at the Kingsford Cup. The show is 46 minutes of pork porn. You just sit back and watch meat being injected, rubbed, and then basted til it is shiny plate of heaven. These contestants have dead serious conversations about things like “the money muscle.” Plus, It’s pretty funny to listen to them talk smack about racks and smokers and rubs and whatnot. I know it is not fashionable to say this but as a Northerner, I find their accents adorable!

It was BBQ Pitmasters that turned me on to a local festival called Pork in the Park right here in Maryland on the Eastern Shore. It’s a Kansas City Style competition held in April and I’ve already got it on my calendar. You’ve got to love a festival whose website counts down the days, hours, and minutes until its next festival. The website claims it is the “second largest Kansas City Barbeque Society Competition in the nation.” No word on who is first.

Obviously these people know how to party.

Who wouldn’t love a show with judges named Tuffy Stone and Myron Mixon? How could you resist the tagline, “Bring the Heat or You’re Dead Meat”? These kids aren’t foolin’.

As mesmerized as I am by watching bbq being made on t.v., I don’t really make it myself. I don’t have a smoker and my grill skills are remedial. As such, I like to avail myself of other pork products and, as such, I was at the market noodling around the meats when ham hocks caught my eye. And ham hocks led to salt pork. And salt pork led to smoked pork jowls and then I realized I was standing in front of a wall of ham. These are the jewels of the South. This is the perk to living just this side of Virginia: ham.

Aren’t they pretty? I resolved to familiarize myself with as many of these glorious products as possible. That is a tall order, so I better get crackin’. To begin, I picked smoked pork jowls and smoked pork chops.

Pork Jowl Bacon

The jowls I figure I will use like hocks and make some beans and hot boiled rice.  The smoked pork chops I picked because while I was standing there dilly-dallying and artfully arranging hams for my camera phone photos like a weirdo a lady came along and helped herself directly to several packs of the chops. She just grabbed them casually like she gets them all the time and all the while explaining to her husband how she’s going to throw them on the grill but she only has one pack at home so they need some more, etc., etc…

This is kind of my modus operandi in the meat aisle. Any time I’m attracted to some strange cut of meat that I don’t know what to do with, I stand around loitering, essentially, until some lady comes along and picks up the meat I’m interested in. Then I pounce on her and ask her what she’s going to do with it and I get her to explain it as much as possible before she edges away from me. I’m sure it’s an unsettling experience for those ladies involved and for that I apologize, ladies. Fortunately, because of her running chatter with her husband, I got the information I needed today by simply eavesdropping — a moderately less invasive procedure for which everyone involved was grateful, I’m sure.

After she moved away, I saw the package claims these chops are ready in two minutes. I’m fascinated by this, so I’m in. I decide to make them with sweet corn and grilled peaches. We’ll see. It could be the start of something good.

The fresh ham fake-out

Citrus and Mustard Glazed (Fresh) Ham

The ham that was a pork roast in disguise.

Turns out a “fresh ham” is just a pork roast! Yes, a 10 lb. pork roast. I love pork roast but a week of roast pork leftovers is not what I had in mind. One can’t make ham sandwiches, deviled ham, or ham balls with pork roast.  My ham hankerin’ has not been fulfilled so it’s back to the drawing board. My Aunt Pat and I put our heads together. We consider that perhaps I am thinking of corned ham. Corned ham is a Southern Maryland thing — especially around Easter —  and since the one-time only fresh ham I remember came from my aunt Pat and Pat now comes from Southern Maryland…well, it adds up.

We’ll get to the bottom of this. In the meantime, here is a recipe from Saveur magazine for Corned Ham where you literally corn your own ham by brining it in salt for seven days (and seven days was conservative. Many of the recipes I looked at stated eleven days!). Hmm. I don’t know if Corned Ham is 7-days-of-brining-in-your-own-fridge good. Fortunately, I currently reside in Maryland and can take a little country day-drive down Rt. 301 to Southern Maryland to get one, if I want. Yay, the South! Click here for Saveur magazine’s recipe for Corned Ham.

If you’re going to corn your own ham then clearly time is not an issue for you so why not keep on truckin’ and turn it into a Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham? Stuffed Ham is a whole ‘nother bird, so to speak. It’s like a country girl’s Tur-Duck-en. Check it out:

Find this picture, with links to recipes and info. about Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham, here:

Now I need to go online and figure out what to do with 5 lbs. of leftover pork roast.