Thursday, November 28, 2013

SoMD Stuffed Ham: The Play-By-Play

In our quest to stuff our first family ham, we turned to the recipe that was transcribed by my Mom from my great-grandmother (Nanny). Nanny's recipe is the traditional "North County" recipe. If you didn't catch my last post about the story of this coveted ham, check it out! It'll fill you on in the kale vs. cabbage debate. 
Here is the recipe we based our ham on: 


10-12lbs ham that has been cured (aka corned ham)
3lbs kale (chopped fine)
2 heads of cabbage (chopped fine) 
10 onions (chopped)
3 tbls salt
2 tbls red pepper
1 tbls black peppers
2 tbls celery seed
1 small jar of mustard seed

The REAL Recipe we ended up using:
23lb ham that has been cured (aka corned ham)
5lbs kale (chopped fine)
2 heads of cabbage (chopped fine) 
3lbs of yellow onions (chopped)
4 tbls salt
5 tbls red pepper
3 tbls black peppers
2 tbls celery seed
1 small jar of mustard seed

Now check out the play by play of our ham-stuffing adventure!

23 pounds of corned ham heaven!

Step One: The Debone
Using a sharp knife, we began to chisel away at the leg bone until it was completely removed.

This leaves the ham with a large cavity for the savory stuffing!

Step Two: Wash and Prep
We began by washing and de-stemming the kale and rinsing the cabbage. Then, we peeled the 3 pounds of onions and cried our eyes out. 

What a beaut!

Step Three: Choppin'
Next, we took small batches of the kale, cabbage and onion mixed and used the grater blade on our food processor to finely chop the mix. Shoutout to the fella that invented the food processor! I can't imagine how people chopped this many greens by hands. And the onions…Oh my!

Precise choppin'

The onion tears begin!

Supplies on deck. 
For the stuffing process, we used a vinyl tablecloth, kitchen twine, couple of knives, cheesecloth and an old pillow case. 

Begining the mixin'

Step Four: Spicin' 
We mixed all the spices together in a dry bowl; this makes it easier to evenly spice the stuffing.

Look at all that spicy goodness!

Step Five: Mixin' It Up
After throwin' together our spice, we decided the best way to get an even mix was to throw it all on the table and mix her real good. 

Pre-Spiced Stuffing

We sprinkled the spices and mixed it the good, old fashioned way…. with our hands!

Step Six: Stuffing the legbone cavity
We began by placing the ham on the table, legbone cavity side up and filled the cavity to the brim with our spiced mix. 

Action Shot!

Step Seven: Tie up time
After the legbone cavity was packed, we began tying the ham up to close the stuffed cavity.

We were on the struggle bus with the crappy kitchen twine we got from the grocery store. 

Step Eight: Flip Her Over
After the cavity got tied off, we flipped the ham over and cut 1" slits in meat to make pockets for the stuffing.


Step Nine: Stuffin' Her Up
We took small pinches of the stuffing and began shoving it in the holes of the ham. This was innappropritately funny because the stuffing gets really juicy and tryin' to get it stick in the holes takes a  lot of intimate contact with the ham. 

Gettin' her nice and plump!

Step Ten: Sak it up!
Next, we wrapped the ham in cheesecloth and put it in an old pillowcase to prepare it for the boiling process. 

The final tie. 

We cooked the ham in a large stainless steel pot over a propane cooker. We normally use the cooker to steam hardcrabs in the summer but it worked perfect to slow boil the ham. After submerging the pillowcased ham in the pot, we cooked it for approximately 8 hours. It was great to have the option to cook ours outside because we didn't stink the house up! 

Check out our final product! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Story of Stuffed Ham

I am seven years old, standing in my Grandma’s kitchen, attempting to calm my senses, which are being attacked by the conflicting smells of mothballs and our Southern Maryland style holiday supper spread. Standing in the cattle line to get my fill of our Christmas feast, I spot something terrifying: stuffed ham. I stare curiously at the large pink ham, marbled with dark green swirls and dotted with red flecks of chili pepper. Echoes of my mother’s voice dance inside my head; “Do not touch the stuffed ham. Whatever you do, steer clear of the stuffed ham. Not even a pinch; don’t touch it.”


My Mother baked her first stuffed ham in the winter of 1990 and made the tragic mistake of placing it straight from the oven to the refrigerator. Little did she know, she had broken a cardinal sin of meat preparation: never put anything in the refrigerator that hasn’t come to room temperature. Traditionally, stuffed ham is served cold and in an eager frenzy to enjoy her first homemade ham, she attempted to rush the cooling process. My parents willingly helped themselves to a midnight snack that winter evening and subsequently spent the next few days recovering from a wicked bout of food poisoning. Poor old Dusty, the family dog, even fell seriously ill from the pinch of ham that my parents fed him on that winter evening. From that day forward, they vowed to never eat it again and as a result, they bestowed a fear of stuffed ham upon my sister and me.


Nestled between the Potomac and Patuxent rivers, St. Mary’s County is known for its plethora of fresh seafood. Springtime tables in Southern Maryland are blessed with bountiful helpings of fried rockfish and perch fillets. Summers are spent sitting around a picnic table, drinking 10oz Bud Lights and crackin’ freshly steamed blue crabs covered in Old Bay. When fall fades to winter, you will find local folk standing around a table of hot scalded oysters, plucking open tightly closed shells to find a hot and juicy surprise begging to be slurped up. With that said, there is one meaty delicacy that no true Southern Maryland family goes without during holiday celebrations year round: stuffed ham.

The infamous Southern Maryland stuffed ham traces back to the docking of the Ark and the Dove in St. Mary’s City. There is some debate as to who began the stuffing of the ham tradition; some say that the recipe originated from the slaves who worked tirelessly for the plantation owners in the area. After killing hogs, a process still widely practice today that involves stunning, scalding and butchering the animal, the plantation owners would take all the best cuts of meat for themselves and leave the not-so-appetizing pieces for the slaves. It is said that slaves took leftover pieces of the hog and used them by creating a stuffing made of local greens. Kale, cabbage and watercress were the most common greens used in the infamous stuffing. This process both stretched and flavored the remnants the slaves were given. Other bluebloods argue that the recipe originated from their homeland in England and was actually brought over to Southern Maryland by their descendants on the Ark and the Dove. Although, it should be noted, that there is little evidence to support this theory; no one can find a similar recipe which features the same processes and ingredients that are used in Southern Maryland.

Regardless of the origins, this dish has become a traditional holiday food for Southern Maryland inhabitants and continues to be passed down from generation to generation. With any and arguably all tradition, controversy follows. Serious debate divides the tight-knit community of St. Mary’s County when it comes to stuffed ham; there is something comparable to a “Mason Dixon Line” of stuffed ham. This geographical debate is centered on the type of greens used to prepare the stuffing of the ham; the folk of north county prefer kale with little or no cabbage and the folk of south county prefer cabbage with just a trace of kale. This divide is not to be taken lightly; people will argue until they are blue in the face for their version of stuffed ham. It should be noted that more kale than cabbage yields a better looking and arguably better tasting ham. Can you tell my origins?


Standing in the small, cramped kitchen of Woodburns, my fifteen year old eyes are stunned by what I see. I watch two little old ladies stand on milk crates and pound handfuls of dark green stuffing into raw hams. These women can’t weigh one hundred pounds soaking wet but they are packing a powerful punch to these hams. They slam a ham down, fill it up with stuffing, tie it up, wrap it in cheese cloth and throw it in a roasting pan. The sight of their system paralyzes me; they seriously have ham stuffing down to a science.

As they begin to finish their assembly line, the first ham is finally ready and the two old ladies take it out of the steamer and tear themselves a generous hunk to taste. I stare at the juicy, fragrant ham dripping with a deliciously green stuffing; it looks absolutely delectable but I hear that echo of my mother again, “Not even a pinch. Don’t touch it!” They offer me a piece and I can’t bring myself to refuse their generosity. A burst of tangy, spicy flavor assaults my taste buds; I have never had such a flavorful piece of meat in my life. A perfect balance between sweet and sour; the stuffing almost reminds me of a homemade pickle in summertime. I cannot believe I have been missing out on this all of my life.


Preparing stuffed ham is extremely labor intensive; from de-boning to stuffing, this delicacy takes a lot of elbow grease. Stuffed ham is traditionally wrapped in cheese cloth and boiled in a large pot but some people wrap it in aluminum foil and steam it in the oven. Regardless of the method of cooking, making a stuffed ham can leave a home reeking of “ham juice” for days. It is a strong, almost vinegary smell that seemingly penetrates any and everything it can. Many locals have expressed that stuffing ham has become a lost art; they suggest that the increase in production from the local grocery stores has eliminated the need for people to make their own hams. Back in the mid 1900s, it was a family affair to kill the hogs and then stuff hams. People gathered around their kitchens and worked together as a family to treat the meat and prepare their feasts. When local family grocery stores began mass marketing the hams in the late 1900s, people could skip all the labor-intensive parts and just buy their ham pre-cooked, stuffed and sliced, and ready to decorate the tables of their festive feasts. Taking this route, natives can now have their local delicacy without the blood, sweat, mess and smell of stuffing the hams themselves.


From that moment forward, my irrational fear of dying a slow death from stuffed ham had finally ceased. I woke up the next morning with no sign of illness; I had survived. Rushing to the breakfast table, I told my parents that I had finally mustered up the courage to try the infamous stuffed ham and they were delighted to see that I was able to experience the local delicacy without falling ill. Finally, after more than a decade, my parents decided to give stuffed ham a second try. Although, this time my mother steered clear of the kitchen and we decided it was the safest bet to buy our first family stuffed ham. So, last Christmas, we feasted without fear and survived. Our communal experience of sharing this local delicacy left me feeling heavy, not only from a full belly of spicy ham, but more so with a desire to revive this lost art. I feel as if it is my responsibility as a native to learn this tradition and carry it forward to my kin (that is, if I ever find a mate…another story…).

Where do we begin? 

Nanny’s Stuffed Ham recipe…

 Stay tuned for the play-by-play of my first ham-stuffing adventure.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thrift Haul #7

As we swiftly approach the holiday season, I have been on my thrifting A game. If you're in a crunch to save cash during the high costs of our upcoming holidays, head over to your local thrift store to score some awesome finds for yourself (and maybe even others!). This month, I found a great variety of items, including the dress I will be wearing to my corporate holiday party. I found a ton of J Crew this past month as well, so much that I couldn't even blog it all and ended up giving a few items to a smaller friend of mine. I will have to score some pictures of those for y'all. 
Stayed tuned in the coming weeks! I am going to be doing a post on how to give thrifted items as holiday gifts. From finding things NWT to DIY, I will show you how you can literally do some of your holiday shopping on a dime. But for now, check out my latest finds!

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." 

                  -Mark Twain

The Goods:

Coral Ann Taylor Blouse: $4.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
I loved the striking color of this blouse. It is banded at the bottom, making it perfect to wear with jeans but also versitile enough to tuck into a pencil skirt or trousers and wear to work. 

J Crew Classic Black Cardigan: $4.98
Goodwill on South Glebe Road, Arlington/Alexandria, VA
You can honestly never have enough black cardigans and black leather pumps. It is a timeless piece that will serve you in the office and out on the town. 

J Crew Lace Sheath Tank: $2.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
This tank is so adorable and I definitely didn't pack it away with my summer goods. I will wear this under a blazer or cardigan for work. I love the pale pink color. 

Girls From Savoy Eyelet Blouse: $2.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
Ding, Ding, Ding! My FAVORITE find of the month! This is the most adorable and flattering summer top I have ever tried on. It has a beautiful shape and it super comfortable because of the ruching on the back. Not to mention, this is an Anthropologie brand- I definitely got a steal here.

Ark & Co Dress: $8.98
Goodwill on South Glebe Road in Arlington/Alexandria, VA
New With Tags! Ah, don't we always jump for joy when that happens. I loved that I could put a tank under this dress and wear it to work but also could shed the tank and definitely wear it out on a date or to a nice dinner with friends. Versatility! 

Big Buddha Wallet and Marc Jacobs Coin Purse: $2.98 and $7.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
TIME OUT. Marc Jacobs for less than $10.00. Whoooop! I love the purple color of the MJ and the bronze accents on BB. 

Enzo Angiolini Heels: $9.00
Vintage Values in Lexington Park, MD
These were obviously only worn once; nothing like almost new heels! Patent, nude, black, peep toe and slingback all in one shoe-- in reality, how could I have let these babies go? So many ways to wear them! 

Frye Leather Wedge Loafers: $12.98 (plus 25% off!)
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
These probably retailed for somewhere in the neighborhood of $150. They look like they've never been worn! This is the perfect fall shoe. You get the wedge comfort but classic leather moccasin style. Love!

Ivanka Trump Purple Suede Pumps: $14.98 (plus 25% off!)
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
A true brand new shoe, *swoon.* I am in love with these. Probably because I was walking around Old Town the other day and saw them in a boutique for $125.00 brand new...I got them for less than $12.00, brand new! They are going to look awesome with an LBD! 

Mixed Jewelry Bags: $2.98 each
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
I am not a person who wears a lot of jewelry but these bags were filled with amazing things. I got a Kate Spade hand mirror, two J Crew Necklaces and few vintage-esque pieces. For $6.00, it ended up being about 7 pieces of jewelry, 1 mirror, and 4 table purse hooks. Awesome finds! This doesn't happen often, though. They were cleaning up their case. 

J Crew Silk Tank: $1.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington,VA
This top has beautiful pleating detail around the neckline. I especially appreciate the inside buttons which hold your bra straps so that you don't have to wear strapless with this top. Genius! 


London Times Dress: $14.98
Thrift Store Center in Alexandria, VA
So, this dress was a bit above my typical thrifted price range but I knew it would be perfect for my corporate holiday party. It is classy, elegant and conservative. Not to mention, I could really wear this to a number of events. I justified my spending through considering this a necessary staple...the LBD!

Merona Fitted Blazer: $4.98
Thrift Store Center in Alexandria, VA 
I have been looking for a black blazer with one/two buttons. I think the shape is much more flatter than three or four. I loved the stitching detail on this jacket. It makes it so that I could pull it off as being casual as well.

 Ann Taylor Cowl Neck Sweater: $2.98
Thrift Store Center in Alexandria, VA
People often ask me why I buy petites when I am not actually petite. My answer, petites are great for tucking into high-waisted pants and skirts. This will keep my waistline from added bulk. Winner!

Splendid Oversized Tee: $1.98
Thrift Store Center in Alexandria, VA
I bought this as fashionable lounge wear. I might wear it to class with a chunky scarf but I imagine myself wearing it with yogas, relaxing at home. I liked the sparkle; it makes dressing down at home still feel fun!

Halogen Purple Cardigan: $2.98
Thrift Store Center in Alexandria, VA
This was a steal; Halogen is normally sold at Nordstrom. Their sweaters are a well constructed, stretch which makes them comfortable and lasting. Love the purple to spice up a bland work outfit.

 Michael Kors Top: $4.98
Thrift Store Center in Alexandria, VA
I bought this because I totally knew I could use it as a double-duty top. It can be work appropriate if tucked in but also would be perfect for wearing out to grab a drink.

Garage Oversized Sweatshirt: $2.98
Thrift Store Center in Alexandria, VA
I actually bought this for my sister because she love Garage and what a fantastic price for this brand. It is a super soft cotton and very basic grey. Great lounge wear or casual grocery store clothes!

Design History Wool Dress: $4.98
Thrift Store Center in Alexandria, VA
So I had to look this brand up; the tag looked cheap but the dress felt really nice. Apparently, this would retail for somewhere in the neighborhood of $150.00 at Saks Fifth Ave. Woah! I had no clue but once again, I thought it would be great for work but also casual enough to wear out on date. Perfect!

Until next haul, y'all!