There is an old adage that rules are made to be broken, or records are made to be broken. Well that may be all fine and good, but there is one thing that should not be broken and that is tradition.
Case in point, Rich’s Christmas tree lighting is now in a parking lot at a Mall. The pink pig train ride is gone! The first baseball game in spring was always the Reds at home. And now we go to Japan for the first game of the year. Japan?
Next thing you will tell me that the circus will not be coming to town! Oh wait, they won’t be. Did you see that Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is closing down? There will be no more circus parade of animals. Oh, the humanity!
My point to all of this is that I will do anything to keep tradition alive in my family, and the biggest traditions revolve around Christmas – not the Holidays, but Christmas!
I have written on this subject before in some of my earlier columns but some of the new readers may not have seen those stories. My favorite part of Christmas is the preparation of the Christmas seasonal country ham (as in salt cured like they did in the 1700’s). You may or may not remember when the government tried to shut down the country ham industry (sometimes called Old Ham) because it did not meet the agricultural department standards. Well, after a valiant attack by the country folks, we won, and Old Ham can still be processed like it was in the early days of our country. Now please do not get Old Ham confused with Honey Baked Ham ‘cause that is what we call AR (Ain’t right!)
The Bridgewater way of cooking a country ham harkens to the days of old. (My high school English teacher would have loved how I wrote that line.) For many years one of our traditions was to drive down to Holifield Farms in Covington with my two girls to pick out our ham. Now I just go to Ingles here in town and buy the Clifty Farm’s ham that Loretta Lynn relies upon. You can’t get much more country than that!
Long before ovens were invented there was fire, so we utilize that as they did back in the day. Our prep begins with boiling the ham for one hour in a pot (we used to use Lard cans but have progressed to low country boil pots on our propane cooker – just a little bit of modern cooking.) As the ham is boiling, we prepare a pile of newspapers and blankets to wrap the pot in once it comes off of the fire. When we take the ham off of the fire, we first wrap it in newspapers to help hold in the heat and then wrap multiple blankets around the pot. Once we have the blankets wrapped around the ham, we tighten rope around it to be sure the blankets are snug against the pot. Then the real cooking starts. Depending on the size of the ham, you leave this in the blanket wrap for 12 to 15 hours.
Now for one word of caution. If you have dogs in the house, beware. The aroma of this fine country ham being prepared the way our forefathers prepped them will drive the dogs wild. Their noses will go into overtime as this ham soaks and cooks in the water.
Once the ham has reached the desired cook time, the hour of the unveiling has arrived. This is sort of like the scene in A Christmas Story when they uncrate the “Major Award”. You want everyone within earshot to be there when you unwrap the ham. As you pull off the blankets and unwrap the newspapers one layer at a time, the anticipation builds and the crowd awaits the moment you pop the top of the pot and the aroma of the Old Ham fills the air.
Ahhhh! Christmas time is here. The family visits and good times are close. The joy of the kid’s excitement as they open their gifts and see what Santa left – all is here and can be captured in your head with that first smell of that Christmas country ham. Just like they did in days gone by. Ahhhh, tradition. Long live family traditions. Yes, you could have gone to the store, bought one and put in the oven, but how many times has anyone gathered at the oven door waiting for you to open it? As I said earlier, AR (Ain’t right).