When I undertook the reverse migration from Virginia to New York, I worried that I would not be able to get hold of real Smithfield hams. Luckily, however, one of my local butchers carries them; it seems that they are a standard Italian dish on the feast day of Saint Nicholas. As the butcher rang up my sixteen pound chunk of pork, he and I had an interesting conversation about the art of cooking Virginia ham. Interestingly, many of his customers are actually scared of Smithfield ham.
In truth, this isn't really all that surprising. After all, Smithfield hams are exceedingly salty, very ugly, and take a long time to prepare. However, they are also amazingly delicious, and constitute one of the most truly American of dishes. Luckily, they are also fairly simple to cook, freeze beautifully, and pretty much all of the leftovers are delicious.
Country Ham(click thumbnails to view gallery)
At any rate, here is my (somewhat idiosyncratic) ham roasting method. Modify it at will!
1. Unwrap the ham. Under warm water, scrub it agressively with a stiff-bristled brush. It may be covered in mold; if so, don't worry. The mold is not harmful to you or the ham, and won't affect the flavor. Simply scrub it off.
2. Submerge the ham in a large pot or plastic tub full of water. Allow to soak for three days. Every day, replace the water and give the ham a fresh scrubbing.
3. Insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the ham. Place in a Reynold's plastic roasting bag, along with four cups of water and a tablespoon of flour. Bake at 350° F until the ham has an internal temperature of 165° F.
4. Allow the ham to cool.
5. Cut off the outer skin and as much of the fat as you are willing to lose. Personally, I cut the ham very close to the meat, as I don't particularly like the fat.
6. Pour orange juice over the ham. Using your hands, add brown sugar, until you have a thick crust of sugar and juice, with the texture of wet sand.
7. Bake at 400 until the crust is melted. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
8. Cut the ham as thin as possible. Some portions will be crumbly and not ideal for the table. Save everything, including the bones. The drier pieces of ham make great soup seasoning or can be the base of Brunswick stew; the bones, on the other hand, are great for cooking beans.
9. Serve the ham by itself, with red-eye gravy, or with a mustard-based sauce. Enjoy!