Monday, April 5, 2010

"The Smithfield Cookbook" & "Mrs. Wilkes' Boardinghouse Cookbook" - Ham with Honey Orange Glaze and Cheese Grits

Date I made these recipes: April 4, 2010 (Easter Sunday)

The Smithfield Cookbook – 350 years of Dining Traditions from Smithfield and Isle of Wight County, Virginia by The Junior Woman’s Club of Smithfield – Smithfield, Virginia
Published by: The Junior Woman’s Club of Smithfield
© 1978
Recipe: Ham with Honey Orange Glaze – p. 8

Mrs. Wilkes’ Boardinghouse Cookbook with a history by John T. Edge
Published by: Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 1-58008-257-2
Recipe: Cheese Grits – p. 111

People, you know it’s going to be a good day when you wake up, turn on the TV, and the movie Easter Parade is on! I LOVE that movie/musical. It’s got Fred (Astaire) and Judy (Garland) and Ann (Miller) and lots of singing and dancing (“a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants”) and great fashion and more! That movie had me whistling and singing “Happy Easter” all day.

And what a great day it was—no snow, high about 65 degrees and sunny. Between the weather and the movie, I was tempted to laze out all day but alas, I had some Easter food to make!

Although I toyed with not making a ham, it is Easter after all and given that I used The Smithfield Cookbook it became almost mandatory that I make a ham.

Long before Paula Deen became a spokesperson for the Smithfield (ham) company, Smithfield was synonymous for country ham—hams that are hung up and dry-cured in a ham house (and by dry-cured I mean “allowed to mold”—no worries, the mold is to be removed before cooking). Actually, make that southern country ham since I don’t know of anyone or any company in the northern clime that can pull off the process like a southern ham producer. (Likely because we are usually buried in snow for a good portion of the year.)

So ham it was and once that decision was made, I decided on a glaze. I actually leaned toward one that involved cinnamon candy pieces but my husband vetoed that so we went with a basic honey orange glaze. It was good but I thought it was rather dull. (By the way, I looked for a Smithfield ham but the only one I found cost $30—ouch! Well, Paula Deen’s picture on that package isn’t free, you know!).

Since I was making a southern ham, I felt the urge to conquer a dish that I have turned my nose up on for a long, long time—grits. I do not have a fond memory of grits the way southerners do and have to say the worst I ever tasted was at a Waffle House years ago. Just the very thought…

But I’m a big girl now and so it was time to just get a grip and get them made although I must confess that in order to eat them, they needed to be cheese grits or else forget the whole deal.

And so I turned to one of my southern cookbooks and found the recipe in Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House Cookbook.

I don’t remember when I learned about Mrs. Wilkes but she was a lady who ran a boarding house in Savannah, GA for years and years until she passed away in 2002 at the age of 95. Her place is still overrun by visitors who line up to get some (by all accounts) fantastic Southern home cooking. Mrs. Wilkes’ menu lists a lineup of meats and veggies and it just cracks me up to no end that macaroni and cheese as well as cheese grits end up in the “veggie” category. That is just so southern, isn’t it?!

Now one of the downfalls of being a northern gal living in a northern climate is that it was darned difficult to find “regular” (as opposed to quick-cooking) grits as called for in the recipe. After visiting three grocery stores, I finally found Bob’s Red Mill Corn Grits (bless his heart) and was off and running. (The label indicated that corn grits are also known as polenta and while that is probably true, I’m not envisioning a true-blue southerner claiming to love polenta. I’m just saying….).

And so I made my ham and had me some grits (and asparagus) and concluded Easter 2010. And in the process I think I might have been converted to liking grits (although the cheese probably didn’t hurt at all). In fact Mrs. Wilkes promises that these grits “can convert even a steadfast Yankee into a believer in this Southern staple.” Maybe a road trip is in order?

Ham with Honey Orange Glaze (submitted by The Smithfield Packing Co., Inc.)
¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, defrosted
¼ cup honey
½ teaspoon dry mustard

Cook your ham as directed. (Ours took 1.75 hours) During the last 15-30 minutes, combine ingredients and brush on the ham, basting several times.

Cheese Grits – serves 6 to 8
1 cup regular grits (do not use quick-cooking grits)
4 cups water
¼ cup butter
1 (6-ounce) package garlic cheese or sharp Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks, beaten well
2 egg whites, beaten stiff
Cracker or dry bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the grits in the water according to the package directions. Slowly add the butter, cheese and salt. Add the egg yolks and fold in the egg whites. Pour into a greased 1 ½-quart casserole. Sprinkle cracker/bread crumbs on top. Bake for 45 minutes.

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