A Savor the South Cookbook
By Damon Lee Fowler
This outstanding cookbook series is coming to an end. However, do not worry, as the series nears the projected finishing line of twenty books, there is not winding down on quality. This next volume tackles an icon of the southern table, Ham and was well worth the wait
Author Howler is the skilled author of nine cookbooks and the editor and recipe developer of Dining at Monticello. He lives in Savannah GA.
Ham is discussed for all of its glory starting with the smokehouses of Thomas Jefferson , to today’s southern classics and to that glorious Italian version of ham, Prosciutto. Fowler takes us into the smokehouses where the very walls capture aromas and flavors of the hams and then, after years, bounce those accumulated scents and tastes back into the pork hindquarters that are hung inside each year.
While I worked at Mt. Vernon, we visited the smokehouse often. It was one of my favorite places on the plantation—I loved the scent of good food coming, carefully cared for, cured, into its own, to be presented at George Washington’s own table. When I cook ham, my own kitchen is redolent with the scent and flavors of history. It’s an aroma that brings everyone into the kitchen to try to cadge a bit of the outer ham “just to taste” before I slice and serve it.
Such is the continuity of ham in the south and anywhere this prince of pork products is loved and eaten. Fowler not only pays homage to Ham as a premiere food of the American South, he also recognizes it s place in other cultures and provides recipes from China, France, Italy and Spain and introduces us to their historic ham types and ways of preparing ham.
I read the front of the book with its history and terminology explanations with great interest. One could say I devoured it (except for the groaning sounds of those who hate puns.) As with the others in the series there are 50 plus, in this case, 55 recipes. Although, I cannot say I loved them all, most are wonderful and all of the recipes are explained so that both beginning and expert cooks can use them all with ease.
Why was I at odds with some of them ,especially with his basic baked ham? Simply because I prefer my own (apple juice and cloves) way of making it. However, his method is classic and if you are new to ham, new to the possibilities of this fabulous meat, try his way.
Many of his other recipes will likely become classics in my own home. I especially liked his rendition of the Monte Cristo sandwich (an item that seems to be making a comeback in restaurants) and his ideas for combining southern classics—like his grilled ham and pimiento cheese sandwich. YUM! This recipe includes a very nice recipe for pimiento cheese as well. Classic ham biscuits, prosciutto and asparagus and lots of other ham and asparagus are just some of the other many delicious suggestions he offers (with full recipe) for using this most versatile meat. I could not help but chuckle as I read his recipe for ham bone soup—it called to mind the story of why cat and dog are rarely friends—all because of a fight over a hambone. Yes, even the bone, the leavings of a ham are worthy of use and can produce sublimely delicious offerings for your friends and family. Lunch, brunch, supper, soups are some of the categories in the book. No desserts with ham—but then again, many lovers of ham (like my husband) will just as soon skip the sugary desserts for a second helping of whatever heavenly ham dish crossed the table as a main course.
As a side note, I am quite fond of the cover of this volume–I love the decorative red rose made from a thin slice of ham–says it all about the love affair the South (and I ) have with ham.
This slim volume is a very worth addition to the collection and deserves a place on your cookbook shelf.