Country Ham: A Southern Delicacy

September 5, 2010

Country Ham

Country ham is a staple breakfast food in the South. It is such a staple, that the thought never crossed my mind that it might not be a universal breakfast food. Oh how my world was rocked on my first visit to Kansas City.

Growing up in Johnson City, Tennessee, Saturday and Sunday morning breakfast meant heading to Hardee’s or your local gas station if you were in a hurry and didn’t want to cook. And that meant biscuits – for me, a ham biscuit and a sausage biscuit – hashrounds if we were at Hardee’s, and an orange juice or occasionally a coke, if I could get away with it. The ham biscuit was awesome – salty country ham, oozing it’s grease into the fluffy biscuit, wrapped in a paper wrapper, hot and just waiting to be eaten.

So imagine my surprise the first time I get a ham biscuit at Hardee’s in Kansas City. I bite into it, and… deli ham??!! What the heck was this? Fast forward 14 years, and every time I leave Tennessee to head back to California, there are a few vacuum-sealed ham steaks stuffed in my luggage, no doubt puzzling the TSA when they search it. If you don’t head to the South frequently, you can also purchase these vacuum-sealed packages (or a whole ham) online.

Once I get home, I freeze the steaks, and pull them out on Saturdays or Sundays, when I’m ready for a good, hearty Southern breakfast. Usually, I make gravy to go with the ham, and this past weekend I also made some biscuits as well. Usually I’m lazy and eat my gravy over some white bread.

The recipe for the biscuits came from Southern Living; you can find the recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits at MyRecipes.com. If you don’t have buttermilk, add a tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup (minus a tablespoon) of milk, and let it sit for 10 minutes or so. To make self-rising flour, add 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to all purpose flour.

For the ham, simply place it in a skillet over medium heat, and cook until done. You’ll need to render the fat out of the ham steaks for the gravy. Remove the ham, place on a towel-lined plate, and keep warm. Meanwhile, sprinkle about a 1/4 cup of flour over the fat in the skillet, and whisk around, getting the two mixed together. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of milk, along with salt and pepper to taste. You’ll want to err on the side of less milk, because it’s easier to add milk to a thick mixture than to try to thicken a milky mixture.

Now you just let it warm up and start to bubble, stirring occasionally. Your gravy will begin to thicken, and you’ll want to cook it for 5 to 10 minutes to get the flavors to come together. Add more milk if the mixture gets too thick. Adjust your seasonings as well.

When the gravy is ready, serve over the biscuits. My favorite way to eat this is to split a biscuit in half, spread gravy over both halves, and serve with a slice or two of ham on the side. Add some fried apples, and you’ll get a good sweet + salty blend.

You can also put the slices of ham between the biscuits for a sandwich, but I find these are never quite as good as the ones you get that have been sitting under a heat lamp for a while.

Country ham, gravy, and biscuits

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2 Responses to “Country Ham: A Southern Delicacy”

  1. This looks delicious! I’m heading to the store today to pick up some ham steaks! It’s that time of year!

  2. Is it finally cooling off there? It was a bit chilly here, but shot back up to 80s or 90s today.

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