Country Ham is a cured ham that is often very salty. The first recorded country ham recipe in 1944 was described as a method of curing and smoking done in rural parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri and other nearby southern states.
I find it very cool that one of the divisions in the 4H show at the county fair in Kentucky there is a country ham division where they bring in the smoked cured treats to be judged. There are also country ham festivals in and around Kentucky. If you have never tasted the delicious taste of country ham you may not know what the fuss is all about but if you have then you understand and may even join in.
Country Hams are salt cured and this may include using nitrates. The curing process takes between one to three months. Hardwoods most often hickory or oak are used to smoke the hams. The hams may be aged between several months to 3 years. The aging depends on the fat content of the meat. Country hams are normally fully cooked but preserved by the cure.
There are country hams that are not smoked. The salt and pepper ham of North Carolina are not smoked. Smoking helps turn the mat a redder color. Country hams are normally sold in stores with no refrigeration required. They are often packaged in rough cotton bags with markings printed on the bags. Inside the bag you will normally find a country ham that has been presoaked, sliced and ready to cook.
Cooking methods of country hams include slicing, pan frying, baking whole, and simmering for hours in water. Whole hams that have been cured in salt may need to be scrubbed and soaked for hours before eating. Preparing with crust on or off normally depends on the taste buds of the one preparing the ham.
You can find country ham served in restaurants as an entree as a whole slice. Country ham make delicious ham sandwiches or ham biscuits. Serve up with butter or red eye gravy is delicious as well.