The country hams of the South, like the famous Serrano Hams of Spain and prosciutto of Italy, rely on a salt cure that removes water from the meat until there’s not enough moisture left for microbes to grow, a vital step in the days before refrigeration. With origins in Depression-era Savannah, this recipe takes inspiration from Harriet Ross Colquitt’s The Savannah Cook Book, using tannins in tea to tame some—but not too much—of a country ham’s saltiness and turn it into a holiday table centerpiece. Slowly braising the untrimmed ham in beer and molasses helps infuse moisture back into the meat, which is naturally basted by the thick fat cap before it’s peeled away and replaced with a rind of sugar. The result blends the authentically rugged flavor of country ham with the sweetness and more-moist texture of city ham. “Fortunately,” writes Colquitt, “this is not quite as complicated as it sounds.” And it isn’t, although it does take time. As for that, here’s another pearl from Colquitt: “It would not be old-fashioned Southern cooking if time were an object or substitutes used.”
Tip: If you’ve ordered a quality whole ham for this recipe, it may still have the hock attached. Ask your favorite butcher to trim the hock so the ham will fit in a roasting pan before you start cooking.