My husband and I met and married in Virginia, and they do love their ham there. I even bid on (and won!) ham in a charity auction, and received The Ham Book as a wedding gift. No really. There’s some local controversy when it comes to ham biscuits, about whether they should simply consist of a slab of ultra-salty ham on a dry biscuit (the old guard says yes), or whether they should include poppy seed dressing (how the baby Jesus intended, kosher laws aside).
As much as we love the favorite food of our once-adopted state, we ascribe to the adage attributed to Dorothy Parker that “Eternity is a ham and two people.” So, we got a small, spiral half-ham. The chutney mixture in the recipe (The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Parties!) is so good that it’s the only recipe that is copied, verbatim, in two different Contessa cookbooks. And who says you have to save a ham for a holiday? It makes the house smell all festive, and you can have sandwiches for a couple of days afterward. I froze the ham bone for soup this winter. It’s also a low-stress weeknight meal – it’s pre-cooked, so there’s really no stress about when it’s done, and if it gets a little dry from overcooking it, the chutney/juice/seasoning mixture can re-moisten it on your plate. I was a little nervous about the chutney. Major Grey’s? Really? I didn’t know if I wanted a throwback from Imperialist Britain on the (largely vegetarian) Indian Subcontinent all over my cured pig for dinner. But, as usual, Ina knew what she was doing, especially if it was appearing in two cookbooks. This beats the weird spice mixture that comes with most spiral hams, hands down. I will be dragging out this recipe for holidays, parties, and guests that might be a little weirded out by anything ethnic or weird.