When I was a kid, I remember ham as that pink meat which showed up on a submarine sandwich in the school cafeteria once in awhile.
Growing up in New Jersey, we had access to so many cold cuts that we rarely had ham in our refrigerator when pastrami, salami, and liverwurst were so readily available. (Okay, I had my share of bologna, and haven’t eaten a slice of it since I left home.)
At our house, ham wasn’t traditionally served at Easter (we always had a late breakfast after hunting for jelly beans), nor do I recall my Yankee grandparents preparing it at holidays.
It wasn’t until I lived in the Midwest that ham started showing up everywhere: wedding receptions, pot lucks, Sunday dinners, and holidays. For some reason I never liked it. Maybe because it was pink?
Once I started storing the meat from my own grassfed pig in the freezer, I began learning about new cuts of meat I had never heard of before, such as a “fresh ham roast.” Anything with the word ham in it scares me, but I’m lucky to have so many resources available on the Internet, as well as my trusty Joy of Cooking cookbook as a guide, to determine exactly what a fresh ham roast is.
As it turns out, ham just means the back end–mainly the leg–of a pig. It’s either cured (pink) or fresh. Basically, you cook a fresh ham like a pork roast and that’s what it tastes like: roast pork.
I found a simple recipe for Roast Fresh Ham from Cooks.com and cooked it in a roasting pan on Sunday. To go with it, I parboiled some root vegetables from the Holland Farmers’ Market–parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, and German butterball potatoes are all in season now–and added them to the pan during the last half hour of cooking, coating them in the pan juices.
Delicious. I am no longer prejudice towards ham. A fresh ham roast is as simple as any other cut of meat you slow-cook in the oven.