Southern Buttermilk Biscuits with Country Ham OR Brown-Sugar Ham

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Pull these soft little clouds of biscuit hot from the oven, slit them and fill them with salty country ham, or sweet/salty brown-sugar ham for a brunch opener or simply as a very-special snack. It’s your choice–we’ve included all three recipes:  a lovely light Southern biscuit, traditional thin-shaved country ham, and a more-to-Midwestern tastes brown-sugar ham adapted from an old Will Rogers recipe.

Making a country ham is quite an undertaking! Salt-cured, hickory smoked and aged for 10 months, country hams have to be soaked a good 24 or more hours, scrubbed, submerged in water and cooked for another 9 hours or so, and then wrapped and cooled for another day before being sliced paper thin, like prosciutto.  We had ours shipped from Rice’s a third generation family-owned and operated business that lays claim to being “the oldest retail business still in operation in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.”

The brown-sugar ham we made as the centerpiece for a Will Rogers dinner theatre at our houseconcert space (the Pig & Weasel,) was a delicious discovery we adapted from a recipe Will Rogers once shared in the 1931-published Beverly Hills Women’s Cookbook. To make it we covered the ham in a brown sugar/mustard/vinegar paste, wrapped the entire ham in a simple flour & water dough, and then baked it for 5 hours.

And the biscuits are our favorite version of Nathalie Dupree’s extra-light hand-rolled biscuits, combining lard and butter with buttermilk in the dough. For more Nathalie possibilites, do get the book she co-authored with Cynthia Graubart

Makes 12 biscuits; one country ham; one brown-sugar ham

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided into two portions: 1, 2-cup portion and 1, 1/4 cup portion
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup very cold lard cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup very cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk (at room temperature) divided
  • Melted butter for brushing on the finished biscuit tops

Brown-Sugar Ham Baked in a Crust Ingredients

  • 1 10 lb bone-in ham (ours was a 20 pounder, so we doubled everything)
  • 3 cups brown sugar

  • 3 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 30 cloves (or more)
  • 8 cups flour and enough water to make this into a rollable dough

Country Ham Ingredients

  • 1 uncooked salt-cured, hickory-smoked country ham
  • large clean tub to completely immerse ham in water overnight
  • extra-large oven-roasting bag
  • extra-large roasting pan
  • aluminum foil

Instructions

  1. Make country ham: Scrub entire surface of ham under warm water, using a stiff brush. In a clean tub large enough to completely submerge the ham, soak the hame in cold water for 24 hours. Discard water.
  2. Place ham in an extra large oven-roasting bag. Place bagged ham in extra large roasting pan. Fill bag with water and tie to secure. Roast ham at 350 for 40 minutes. Reduce heat to 225. Bake 30 minutes per pound. NOTE: you will know the ham is done when you can easily twist the bone and it moves freely. Drain water. Remove bone from ham and remove fat from outside of ham. Cool slightly. Wrap in foil. Refrigerate for a day. Take to your local butcher and have them slice the hock off for you to save for making beans or collards. Have them slice the rest of the ham very thin. Refrigerate.
  3. Make Brown-sugar Ham Baked in a Crust: hamindoughPreheat oven to 325. Score the fat on the outside of the ham in a crosshatched pattern. Insert a whole clove in each square of scored fat on the top and sides of the ham. Make a paste of the brown sugar, mustard and vinegar. Pat about 3/4 of this over the top and sides of ham. Combine the flour with enough water to make a rollable dough. Roll dough out to a very large rectangle. (Reserve a small piece of dough to patch the ham if steam makes holes) Invert ham onto dough. Pat remaining 1/4 of the brown sugar paste on the bottom of the ham. Pull the dough over and pinch seam to entirely enclose the ham in dough. Place a rack in the bottom of the roasting pan. Invert the ham onto the rack. Pour 2 cups of water into the bottom of the roasting pan. Loosely cover the roasting pan with foil. Place in oven and roast 2 1/2 to 3  hours (until a thermometer reads 135F), checking to see if the dough needs patching now and then. Remove ham from oven. Allow to rest 10 minutes. Remove dough and discard. Slice and serve ham.
  4. Make biscuits: Brush a 9-inch cake pan with butter. Set aside. Whisk 2 cups of flour with baking powder and salt in a large bowl, wider than it is deep. Scatter the 1/4 inch pieces of lard over the flour and work in with two knives, or, quick moving fingertips, until the mixture looks like wet sand with some pea-sized bits. Add the 1/2-inch pieces of butter and cut in. biscuitbowlbutterPlace bowl in fridge to chill for 10 minutes. Remove. Make a hollow in the center of the mixture; pour all but 1/4 cup of the the buttermilk into the holllow. Stir in broad circular strokes with a wooden spoons until mixture becomes a sticky dough that pulls from the sides of the bowl. Only add the reserved buttermilk if the dough is too dry.
  5. Sprinkle a clean work surface with the remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Turn the dough on to the floured work surface and shape/pat into a large disk. Divide disk into 4 equal portions. Divide each of these pieces into 3 smaller pieces. One at a time—with floured hands—lightly shape/pat/roll each of the 12 small pieces of dough with your hands (NOT with a rolling pin)  into a fat biscuit shape. Nestle all next to each other in the buttered cake tin. Preheat oven to 425 with rack in the top of the oven.
  6. Bake biscuits 6 minutes. Rotate pan. NOTE: if biscuits seem to be baking too quickly, slide another baking sheet pan underneath. Bake another six to eight minutes until light golden.
  7. Remove biscuits from oven. Remove from tin to a plate; brush with butter and serve with ham.

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