Friday, December 02, 2005

Have Ham, Will Travel

-This is the only known picture of the ham. It looked so much more mouth watering, when it was scored, studded with cloves and roasted for 6 hours.-

Farmer Judy’s remark a few days ago about going out to the wet fields to feed her pigs reminded me of the best ham I’ve ever had. It was from one of Farmer Judy’s pigs pictured below. From what I’ve learned, most pigs get butchered at about 200 lbs or so. Those two sows pictured below are way bigger than that. The larger one was around ¼ ton. I knew these pigs as Spot and Shirt. Those were great names because it’s easy to tell which was which. They were so big because Farmer Judy had gotten them late in the season and then wintered them over in her barn. She swore she’d never winter over pigs in the barn again. I went with Judy to the butcher to pick up the meat and then we took the hams and bacon up to a smoke house in Barre, Vermont near Montpelier to have them cured. Later I took the smallest of the four hams home. It weighed about 35 lbs, one big ham.

Have you heard the joke about the definition of infinity? Infinity is one ham and two people. In this case for my husband, two grown kids and myself, this ham could have been infinity for four people. It was such a nice looking ham than I did not want to cut it up to freeze in pieces. Nick’s two sisters were at their summer places across the street from each other near Cape Cod. So, I called them and said we’d be down with a ham big enough to feed everyone. We packed up the ham, and went visiting. Of course no one had ever seen such a large ham and they were shocked that I’d actually known the pig. I cooked it for over 6 hours. My sister-in-law’s house smelled great. There were 17 peopled for dinner that day and there was LOTS of leftover ham. It was the best ham I’d ever eaten. I froze the leftovers, and made a ton of pea soup to freeze. All winter long I thought of that ham whenever I had some of the pea soup. I know the ham tasted great because it was pasture raised, but I think it even tasted better to me because I’d driven over half the state of Vermont and from one end of Massachusetts to the other with that ham. I’d bonded with it.

I did help Farmer Judy shovel out her barn that spring and saw her point about not ever wintering over pigs in a barn again ;)

1 comment:

  1. A thought on overwintering pigs. We do it in garden corrals rather than barns. Firstly we don't have a barn. :) Second we have very poor sandy soil that needs nutrients. Our solution to the two problems was to solve both at once. We built a strong fence around our garden and then wintered animals over. Thus in the warm weather they are gardens and in the winter they are corrals. We feed the animals plenty of hay and don't worry about waste. Our pigs graze pasture in the warm weather and chow down on the hay in the winter. This also makes their poops smell better, like cow poops rather than the typical pig shit smell. We do have a three sided shed, walled with hay, that the animals use in the worst weather but they don't poop in there so we don't have to do any cleaning out. In the spring they till the garden. We then move the pigs out and move the chickens in for two weeks. They smooth and weed the garden. Then we move the chickens out and plant immediately. The garden stays virtually weed free.