If you happen to be in Virginia, don't miss buying a Virginia Ham, or at least order one from your butcher. This is a beloved American tradition that has spread across both state and international borders. Smithfield Ham is unquestionably one of the best names. Considered by many to be the premier country-cured ham, the Smithfield is said to have been so loved by Queen Victoria, that she had six sent to her household every week. Although these special hams were once produced from hogs raised on a privileged diet of acorns, hickory nuts and peanuts, today's Smithfield hams come from grain-fed hogs.
To be accorded the appellation of "Smithfield," the hams must be cured and processed in the area of Smithfield, Virginia. They are first dry salt cured, spiced, and slowly smoked to perfection using oak, hickory and apple wood and then aged for 6 to 12 months, sometimes up to 2 years. The result is a lean, dark-colored ham with a flavor that's rich, salty and dry. It may be served raw like prosciutto, but it's usually baked or boiled. Before being cooked, Smithfields must be soaked for 12 to 24 hours to remove excess saltiness.
Aged, smoked and dry salt-cured the same as the Genuine Smithfield Ham, but for a shorter time. The result is a more subtle, slightly milder flavor that still retains that distinctive country-cure taste. The shorter shanked Country Ham is often referred to as a second cousin to a Genuine Smithfield Ham.
You don't need to guild the lily when you have a Smithfield ham. I usually bake mine like this:
Mrs. Adam's Baked Ham
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From Worldwide Gourmet