Monday, June 13, 2011

Green eggs and Hamlet

"I do! I like green eggs and ham! 
I do! I like them, Sam I am!"
-from Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Green eggs and hamlets; are we spoiled or what?

When the Three Little Pigs (our most recent batch of Tamworths) were slaughtered in early May, chef Gabriel at the Alder Wood Bistro in Sequim bought the two bigger ones. Of the one we had left, David's Uncle Stevie bought most of one side, everything but the belly. Usually I reserve the back legs to cure for prosciutto, but this time I decided to try something different. (We already have two prosciutti from last year's pigs, and a large one curing from the one that was slaughtered in January.)

So I took the bones out of the 22-pound leg, left the skin on, and proceeded to divide the meat into eight boneless little hams, which I, quite naturally, am calling Hamlets. Since the pieces were mostly not much more than 2 pounds, I knew they would cure much more quickly than a whole, bone-in ham. I started with my usual dry rub, a mixture of kosher salt, brown sugar, ascorbic acid (an antioxidant that is used instead of nitrates; more about that coming up in another post), and a few herbs and spices. The pieces are simply rubbed with this mixture and put into freezer bags and kept cool for a few days.

Next I took the hamlets out of the bags and put them into stainless stockpots and submerged them in white wine for about a week. This serves several purposes: Additional flavor from the wine; the extra time allows the salt in the dry rub to "equalize" throughout the meat, so it is cured evenly; and the citric, malic and tartaric acids in the wine inhibit a variety of potentially harmful bacteria.

By the way, I used this same curing method for about 15 pounds of  skin-on pork belly. If you've never tried Tamworth bacon, come over for breakfast sometime. Seriously. This is bacon as it should be: chewy, full of flavor, and it doesn't cook away to nothing in the frying pan. Oh, and the drippings are the perfect thing to use for cooking your green eggs.

Finally, the hamlets and bacon pieces were rinsed briefly and patted dry. I put the hamlets in stretchy netting so they would keep their shape (reminds me of control-top panty hose), and put them and the bacon directly onto the racks in my smoker. 2-3 hours on medium heat (about 210-215F in my smoker) with alder chips for smoke, and we had a beautiful pile of moist, perfectly cooked bacon and ham.

 One of our beautiful Ameraucana hens.

Being a longtime fan of Dr. Seuss, and knowing there were fresh Ameraucana eggs in the fridge, I couldn't resist the juxtaposition of green eggs and hamlets. (OK, so I'm a Shakespeare fan too.) Although we are transitioning our dual-purpose laying flock over to mainly New Hampshire Reds, we are keeping 10-20 Ameraucana hens; everyone likes the pretty eggs in shades of blue and green.

Anyway, the book never said "green eggs and GREEN ham," you know. I think I'll go have breakfast while I'm waiting for your e-mails.