Savor the South–Ham


Ham by Damon Lee Fowler, UNC Press 2017, hardback $20.00, 128 pages

Carve a ham as if you were shaving the face of a friend.

Henri Charpentier

For a Yankee like me, there is a mystique surrounding Southern ham. Are they all cured and smoked and salty? Do you soak it and slice it thin, or grin and bear it?

In this book, Damon Lee Fowler brings his expertise to bear–gleaned from his grandmother and his own research and writing into both Southern and international cooking.

So alongside an Old-Fashioned Southern Hambone Soup, is a recipe for elegant Ham Crisps made with Italian prosciutto. He knows how to intensify flavor, using those crisps in a BLT and making the soup with an overnight broth from the bone, then sautéing onions in the rendered fat.

Along with de-mystifying ham, the book will make you a better cook. In the chapter on Ham and Eggs, Fowler gives precise but not fussy  instructions for fried eggs, omelets, frittatas, and baked eggs. He recommends sprinkling cooked potatoes with dry vermouth before blending them into a Ham and Potato Salad and will guide you through the particulars of biscuits to make Classic Southern Ham-Stuffed Buttermilk Biscuits.

He rings similar changes with sandwiches and pasta, offering flavors and techniques that are both  classic Southern and international. It’s your choice–potluck-ready Ham and Macaroni Pie or Ham Lo Mein. Sandwiches get a similar treatment from a diner-style Grilled Ham and Cheese, and around the globe with a Monte Cristo, Cubano, Croque Monsieur, or Panini.

As with all the books in the Savor the South series, Fowler begins with some orienting background, explaining how hams are made, how to buy them, and how to cook them. He also offers some cultural context–the history of ham in Southern foodways and a happy note that the skill and expertise in curing is making a comeback. And he reminds us that prosciutto, speck, iberico, and Smithfield are an international family.

After reading this book, you may not be ready to take on a whole ham but you will be inspired to eat beyond the flabby wet deli slices at the supermarket.


About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
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