Martha Washington took great pride in the hams produced at Mount Vernon. She supervised their curing and subsequent preparation for meals. Her grandson recalled that a “ham was boiled daily” for enjoyment at every meal. In a July 1798 letter to William Hambly, an English merchant, George Washington wrote, “Being in grateful remembrance the very fine Cheeses you had the goodness to send me, Mrs. Washington prays your acceptance of half a dozen Hams of her own curing.”
Gammon is the English corruption of the northern French word jambe. In Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, it is defined as the “buttock of an hog, salted and dried.” The word is interchangeable with ham, as reflected in the title of this Hannah Glasse recipe. Unfortunately, Mrs. Washington’s recipe for roasting ham has not come down to us. But because she owned a copy of Glasse’s cookbook, it is possible that this recipe was one she tried.
This recipe was adapted by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons.
1 bone-in Virginia ham (country ham) (6 pounds)
4 cups dry white wine
4 to 6 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 bunch fresh parsley, stemmed and minced
1. Soak and scrub the ham according to the method suggested on the package or by your butcher. Put it in a large pot, and add enough water to cover it completely. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours (20 to 25 minutes per pound). Add water as needed to keep the ham covered. When thoroughly cooked, remove it from the pot and cool slightly until it can be easily handled. Cut off the skin and trim the fat to 1/4 inch thick.
2. Place the ham in a large pan or ceramic bowl, and pour the wine over it. Steep it for 8 to 9 hours, turning every 2 hours. Drain thoroughly, reserving the wine.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Set a rack in a large roasting pan.
4. Wrap the ham in parchment paper, secure with butcher’s or kitchen twine, and place in the roasting pan. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, basting every 15 minutes with about 1/2 cup of the reserved wine, until the ham is heated through.
5. Remove the ham from the parchment paper, and cover the top and sides with breadcrumbs and parsley. Return to the oven, and roast for 15 to 20 minutes until well browned.
6. To serve, place the ham on a platter, and cut into thin slices.
Serves 8 to 10
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