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AKA Don’t waste the ham!

This brings to my mind my dad’s watermelon story. He grew up in the rural section of Szeged and one day Apám and his friends felt like having some watermelon. The Szeged watermelons are famously good, every time they arrived in Budapest long lines formed at the piac [market]. So Apám and his friends sneaked into this farmer’s yard and each took a large watermelon. Well the farmer got them on the way out and said I feed people, but I don’t support thieves. He made them sit down took out his pocketknife and cut up each boy’s watermelon. You can imagine a bunch of ten year olds having to eat a whole watermelon on the spot. By the time they finished some were green and some were crying. Apám said he never again took what was not his.

Back to the ham, if you got it killed, eat it! With Easter only one week away, the hams are going on sale. It seemed like a good time to show how to use up every part of the ham. If the ham is too large, take it apart, don’t buy small ham products and pay ten times what you would normally spend on a large ham. I bought a fair sized cottage roll before Christmas. It was too much ham for the two of us. I could have roasted it but frozen leftovers are never as good as freshly cooked.  I cut it up, put it in labelled freezer bags and froze the whole lot of it. We are still working on it.

 this was the cottage roll 

Then two days ago, Jim came home with a good-sized Cook’s ham. Haha, I don’t think I will be buying ham until Thanksgiving. We will have roasted and cooked ham, ham steaks, ham hamburgers, ham-loaves, and today we are having ham pogácsa from the fatty bits. And all these for the price of $24.00.  Keep in mind when cooking with ham it is salty. Never salt the ham-loaf or the ham-burger. Go easy on the salt in every ham dish.    

The science of food is always industry driven. We cannot live without fat, the human body requires it one way or another. The choice is between chemically processed plant oil and animal fat. Our diets vary greatly and often times are belief rather than science based. Even though fat supplies essential fatty acids and our body needs it for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K, we discard animal fat and pour the stock down the drain. It is one thing to advocate for the ethical treatment of animals and to avoid meat altogether. But if the diet already contains animal protein why do we waste it?

I made this pogácsa from the rendered ham-fat [lard] and its by product: ground ham-fat crackling. Conversely, there is no such thing as a ham crackling only ham flavored shoe leather. But put the ham-fat through the food processor before rendering and you will get ham flavored morsels for yeast biscuits. There it is, the entire ham is utilized be it a humble cottage roll or a nice big Cooks ham.  

this is the rendered ham-fat and ground ham-fat crackling I used in the following recipe

Ham Crackling Biscuits
2 cups flour
1/4 cup rendered ham-fat
1-1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup of milk
1 egg yolk

1/2 cup ground-ham crackling
1 lightly beaten egg for glazing

  • Make the ham crackling first. Forget everything you know about pork crackling.
  • Chop the fat trimmings of ham and place it the food processor.
  • Push down the on button and process until the entire batch is uniformly minced.
  • Place a non-stick skillet on medium heat and add the minced ham fat.
  • Fry the ham fat until the fat melts out and the bits get a nice brown colour.
  • Drain the fat into a bowl and set aside the crackling.
  • This is important! Let the fat cool down to room temperature before assembling the pastry, because the heat would kill the yeast.

  • To make the pastry, place the flour in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the ham-fat, yeast, sugar and the salt.
  • Combine ingredients to form dough.
  • Transfer to a cutting board and knead the dough for a couple of minutes.
  • Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.
  •  Let the dough rise until doubled.
  • Roll the dough out into a thin rectangle.
  • Scatter the ham crackling on half of the dough.
  • Fold over and repeat rolling and scattering until the crackling is all gone.
  • Let the dough rest on the cutting board for 20 minutes.
  • Roll it out and fold it again.
  • Let it rest again for 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400F and line the bottom of a 9X5 inch baking-pan with parchment paper.
  • Roll out the pastry to 1 inch height and score the top.
  • With a smaller biscuit cutter cut 20 rounds.
  • Place the rounds in the prepared baking pan, not touching but close together. When yeast biscuits lean, it is because too much space is left between them.
  • Spread the tops with a lightly beaten egg.
  • Place the pan in the preheated oven and immediately turn the heat down to 375F.
  • Bake the biscuits for 25 minutes or until lightly browned on the top.



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