Ham in the mail

November 25, 2018

A big ol’ batch of goodness.

Sometime not too long ago, I went to the freezer and pulled out my last package of Broadbent’s Country Ham. And I thought to myself, “Self? We’ve got to do something about this!”

And Self replied, “You’d best get back in the house, get on the computer, and order us some more.”

And that is what we did.

I have been buying Broadbent country ham since I bought one at a silent auction once. When I got that one home (I actually just bought the certificate for it, and they shipped it to me once I got home, thankfully), I realized a full-blown country ham was a bit much for me, given my kitchen, knife and knife skills limitations. Fortunately, Broadbent’s sells in packages of pre-sliced ham.

Broadbent’s has held the title of the reigning grand champion ham in Kentucky for years. Its winning ham at the Kentucky State Fair goes at a charity auction for several million dollars, but you can have one of that ham’s close cousins, or enough of one to do you for a good while, for about a hundred bucks.

Now, there are things I truly loathe about Kentucky, chief among them University of Kentucky basketball (and can I just tell you how thrilled i am that my alma mater, Memphis State, snatched James Wiseman out of John Calipari’s grip and made a Tiger out of him?), mutton barbecue, and the University of Louisville. However, there are things I love about it, as well, up to and including the Kentucky Derby, hot browns, good bourbon whiskey…and Broadbent country ham.

We make some damn good country ham, bacon and sausage in Tennessee, too, but I’ve got to favor Broadbent’s for hams, at least since my late former next door neighbor, Mr. Herschel Florence, got out of the ham curing business. And while he cured a good ham, I have to say he made the best country sausage I have ever eaten In My Life, and I wish I could find someone who makes it like him. But I digress.

So at Self’s urging, I sat down at the computer, called up the Broadbent website, and ordered myself some ham. Specifically, I ordered breakfast steaks, biscuit pieces, hocks, seasoning pieces, and bacon ends and pieces. A few days later, here it rolled up in the UPS van.

I love my UPS man. He brings me delightful things. My FedEx man and my USPS carriers ain’t half bad, either.

So Saturday morning, I set about making some biscuits. I have frozen biscuits in a bag in the freezer, but that would not do, not to go with country ham. I wanted a good, rich, homemade biscuit. I got out my Martha White Self-Rising flour (points to the Tennesseans and/or Grand Ol’ Opry fans who hummed that jingle when they read that), a stick of butter and a carton of cream, and made myself some cream biscuits.

To make cream biscuits, one dumps about two cups of flour in a bowl. One adds about 2 tbsp cold butter to said bowl, along with a little salt. One cuts the butter into the flour with a fork until there are no lumps bigger than a half a pea. Then one stirs in about a cup and a half of cream. The extra butterfat in cream will ensure you moist, soft biscuits.

You stir that just until it comes together, and then you dump it out on your counter. You fold it in half three times — the failing point of most biscuits is working the dough too much — and you pat it out to a little less than an inch thick. Then you reach for your biscuit cutter, and you cut out your biscuits (or, if you want to make scones, you cut it like you would a pie).

Important note here: when you cut, either with a knife or a biscuit cutter, cut straight down. Do not twist your cutter or saw your knife. Your biscuits won’t rise if you do.

Put these on a lightly greased baking sheet and brush the tops very lightly with some more milk or cream. Slide them in a 400F oven for about 15-18 minutes, until they’re golden. Try not to burn your fingers as you split them open to fill them with a variety of delectable things.

One of which is country ham. The primo way to prepare that is to soak the slices in several changes of cold water for about an hour, and then fry them in a bit of bacon grease or shortening in an iron skillet. They will be salty. They will be tough. They will be wonderful. You can tenderize ’em a bit by covering them with water after you’ve browned one side and then covering the pan and letting them steam about 20 minutes.

Slap one of those ham pieces between the two halves of a hot biscuit. No butter is required, but a drizzle of sorghum molasses does not go amiss. I have known heathens who add mustard; please do not do that. A bare schmear of your favorite jam or preserve is permissible in lieu of sorghum.

Make you two or three of these, pour you a good cup of coffee, and sit down with the paper or Saturday sports on TV. I feel real certain you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em will agree with me that life is good, and country ham makes it better.

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