What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Cincinnati “Cottage” Ham! W-h-a-a-a-t? When my husband requested something his mother used to cook that conjured up pleasant memories of his youth, I couldn’t refuse. He was raised in southwestern Ohio where traditional foods, like Cottage Ham, make up comfort food thrown together in one pot for a meal that practically makes your eyes roll back. Local butchers recognize the term since they’ve been using it for over a hundred years. Secret recipes include tender meat taken from the shoulder of the pig, salt-and-sugar cured, and then hickory wood-smoked. The name became popular in the 1800s because the Cottage Ham is small in size, just like a tiny house.
CINCINNATI “COTTAGE” HAM
2-3 pound smoked pork shoulder butt
2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, quartered
Place cottage ham in a slow cooker. Cover with water. Add green beans, sea salt, black pepper, and onions. Cook on Low 8 hours. Add quartered red potatoes. Cook 2 hours longer. Cut ham into thick pieces with green beans and potatoes. Ladle juice over all. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Cottage Ham! I’ve made this dense cottage ham three different ways: slow-cooker, stove-top, and oven-bake. The best results came when I used the Le Creuset cast iron enameled Dutch oven.* It seemed to distribute the heat more evenly. The ham was fork-tender, moist, and juicy. Because the pan locks in the moisture, you can keep it warm in the oven until dinner time by reducing the oven temperature after the first three hours. Any leftover cooking water can be used as a soup base the following day.
2 pound smoked shoulder butt
8-10 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 bay leaves
Preheat oven to 350°. Rinse cottage ham to remove excess salt. Place cottage ham in a 3.5-quart Dutch oven. Add enough water to fill 2 inches above ham. Add black peppercorns, brown sugar, and bay leaves. Cover with lid. Bake cottage ham two hours. Check water level to keep the pan from going dry. If it does, add a little more water. The absorption allows the ham to be fork-tender, not chewy. Bake one hour longer, if necessary. The ham is done when the internal temperature is 160°. Serve with potatoes and vegetables of choice.
*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Pan-Seared Pork Carnitas! What if I told you this recipe will give you the crunch of bacon and the tenderness of a roast? And what if I also told you there’s no shame in eating a plate of tender, super-crispy meat without tortillas and refried beans on the side? (It’s true. I actually had these pork carnitas for breakfast one day.) If you’ve ever ordered this house special in a Mexican restaurant, I challenge you to give it a try. I simply threw all the ingredients together before I went to bed and let the slow cooker do its magic overnight. The next morning, the aromas will drive you crazy! Be creative. Have tacos, tostadas, nachos, or simply eat them as is. I did, without regrets. Mmmmm.
PAN-SEARED PORK CARNITAS
7-pound pork shoulder, bone-in
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon oregano
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1 tablespoon Hawaiian Rub*
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup pickled jalapeño peppers, sliced
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vinegar
Rinse and dry pork shoulder. Pat dry. Cover with olive oil. Rub in oregano, cumin powder, Hawaiian Rub, garlic powder, kosher salt, and black pepper. Place the pork shoulder, fatty side up, in a slow-cooker. Add chopped onion and jalapeño slices. Mix together orange juice and vinegar. Pour over all. Cover. Cook on Low for 10 hours. When done, the meat will be very tender. Remove the roast from the slow cooker. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Shred the meat using two forks, allowing some pieces to remain in bite-size chunks. Strain the juices into a medium size saucepan. Discard solids. Warm the drippings over medium heat to skim off the fat. Set aside. To serve, warm an iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Place shredded pork in the skillet and drizzle in a ladle of juices. Avoid overcrowding. Use a screen lid cover to eliminate splatters. Let the juices evaporate for 2-3 minutes so the bottom of the pork appears charred and crusty. Carefully turn over the pork pieces to cook golden brown. Overcooking will reduce tenderness and juiciness. Remove pork from skillet. Take a lime wedge and squeeze fresh lime juice over all. Garnish with cilantro. Leftovers may be divided into storage containers. Pour the juice equally over the pulled pork in each container. Freezing is also an option.
*Available through Salty Wahine Gourmet Hawaiian Sea Salts. I receive no recompense for promoting their product.