A few days after my wife and son left for an extended stay on the beautiful island of Jamaica in mid-July, I received an e-mail from Heritage Foods USA about a special ham from the only certified natural hog farm in New York State.
In a decision that still confuses me, I ordered it, even though it would be weeks before they returned. Maybe I wanted to have comfort food on hand for the lonely days and nights ahead.
Do you know how big a 9-to-10-pound ham is? Neither did I. And when it arrived, still cold to the touch, it weighed more than 12 pounds. It sat in the fridge for a few days before I did the only thing I could: find room for it in the freezer. Finally, at the end of August, we were a family again, and the ham went into the defroster.
Then, in a miscommunication between my wife and me the Sunday before last, I put the ham into the oven at a low 250 degrees to complete the cooking. (The farm that prepared it with only salt and brown sugar told me it wasn't fully cooked and had to be brought up to an internal temperature of 170 degrees.) The middle was really cold, maybe still frozen, so I cranked up the heat and after four hours, I could slice some juicy meat for my dinner. My wife and son, it turned out, had other dinner plans.
What to do with the leftovers? For seven days ending this past Monday, I ate ham sandwiches, made with meat right from the fridge -- sliced thin. I noticed a slightly rosy hue and veins of fat that gave it a silken feel in my mouth. I made lunch sandwiches on a bagel, whole grain toast and pita. I even had one for breakfast, and I made sandwiches for my wife and son, too. We also diced this beautiful ham to put in scrambled eggs, sauteed cabbage and yellow rice. In short, we went ham crazy. Now, finally, it's all gone.
This ham looked and tasted as if it had come from a contented hog raised on the Lucki 7 family farm in Rodman, N.Y. Its Web site pledges:
"We never-ever use antibiotics, drugs, hormones, or animal proteins. Only a vegetarian diet! Our delicious pork is created using carefully selected old fashion genetics. The pigs have plenty of space to roam on green grass and sunshine. The barns are heavily bedded with straw and hay, creating a stress-free environment."