Back in 1981, my husband and I were celebrating our first Christmas together.  He was in the U. S. Coast Guard, and he was stationed on the Coast Guard Cutter Dallas.  Our home was an apartment on Governor’s Island, in New York harbor.

Our parents and siblings all lived a good distance away – Ohio, Virginia, and Kentucky.  To celebrate a “home-y” Christmas, my sister mailed me a Kentucky country ham.  You may wonder what a Kentucky country ham is – it is a salt-cured ham.  Years ago, the settlers would butcher their meat in late fall, and salt cure the meat.  Then, smoking would be over a fire.  The salting and smoking protected the meat from spoiling.  When I was growing up, we would often have country ham for Christmas dinner.

The ham was a surprise, and I had no idea as to how to cook it.  So, naturally, I called mom.  She told me how I needed to scrub the ham (taking off some of the salt, but not all), then cut off the hock end, boil the ham, and then bake the ham.  One of the most important steps was cutting off the hock end, and preparing it the same way the rest of the ham was prepared.

As I said above, we lived on Governor’s Island, and our neighbors in the apartment building were from Connecticut.  They had never heard of a country ham!  So, since there would be two pieces of the ham to prepare, we decided to share with our neighbors – we would each have the experience of preparing, and eating, the ham.

And, we did all of the preparation, enjoying every single step!  When our neighbors tasted the ham, they were not sure about eating it – they had never taste anything like it before!  However, they did eat more for Christmas dinner and for leftovers too!  There was one question that the neighbor asked that I could not answer – why did we cut off the hock end – why not cook it all together?  So, back to asking mom.  She told me, “Mother always did it.”  So, I went to the source – my grandmother.  When I asked her, her answer was, “The pot was too small to cook all of it together.”  What a laugh we all had!  Mom had prepared many a country ham for our family, and she had prepared it just like her mother did!

Maggie

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