I thought it was time to get back to my journey through the Western Dubuque Marching Band Cook Book. And, since it was Easter Sunday… Canned Ham!
1. Get a canned ham: Given that this was a Western Dubuque Marching Band Cook Book recipe, I thought it was only fitting that we went with a Dubuque ham. The recipe doesn’t seem to care whether you get a 3 pound ham or a 5 pound ham. We got the 3 pound ham. Because it’s just the two of us in our household and more than that would be absurd.
2. Skip a step: the first step of the recipe tells you to remove the key. This is a relic from the time when canned hams came with keys that you used to peel back the metal lid of the container to get it open. I have personally never seen this on a ham; we never ate any of it in my house growing up, as far as I can tell. But, I have seen this type of opening modality on a can of spam, which we ate as a matter of cultural mandate as Korean immigrants.
3. Skip another step: the recipe then tells you to punch 4-5 holes around the edge “(with a can opener)”. This also is a historical relic from the time when can openers had sharp pointy thingies that let you pierce cans (e.g. old school Hawaiian punch).
4. Modify the recipe: The reason you are supposed to do punch holes in the can is so that you can drain the juice and then cook the ham inside the can, as if you were a cowboy at a campfire cooking beans. But, in this modern day and age, the bottom is now made of plastic that certainly would not be able to handle being cooked. So, I removed the ham and put it in my crock pot, which has a heavy, tight-fitting lid. The opening mechanism is like opening a big soda. It looked like dog food.
5. Bake for 1 hour: at 325 degrees.
6. Sauce the meat: After the first hour of baking, get the crock pot out of the oven, drain off any liquid (carefully – the crock pot and the liquid are particularly scalding), and then add sauce. The original recipe wanted you to pour the sauce into the ham container through the holes you already were supposed to have punched earlier. This fascinating step is the reason I wanted to make the canned ham in the first place. But, since Dubuque ham let me down with their new plastic containers, I had to pour the sauce into the crock pot and braise(?) the meat.
The sauce was 0.5C maple syrup, 0.5C bbq sauce, and 0.5t garlic powder. I used lite syrup, because buying real maple syrup would have been more expensive than the ham. And I used this Countryside Bar B Q Sauce because it is sweet, really good with pork, and was purchased in Dubuque County.
7. Bake for 2.5 hours: at 325.
8. Remove: After the second bake, you were supposed to pour off the sauce from the holes, remove the lid (with the key), and serve. Because of how I had to modify the recipe, I just pulled it out of the crock (carefully – the last thing I wanted was a third degree sugar burn from the sauce).
I set it on a nice serving plate and showed it to my wife. She was nice enough to humor me in eating it. The idea of the canned ham didn’t particularly excite her in the first place. And the look of this particular canned ham did nothing to assuage her earlier trepidation.
I made my first few slices into it, and it was like slicing a large hunk of tofu. But the outside portion was somewhat tough. The sauce, which was fake maple syrup plus sweet barbecue sauce, had burned into a chewy outer “rind”. I’m not sure how this kind of sauce at 325 for 2.5 hours wouldn’t burn, but I suppose that’s the magic of cooking the ham in the can as the original recipe required.
I served this with some homemade mac and cheese (enhanced with velveeta to more accurately mimic box-ness, which my wife prefers when she is feeling under the weather, as she was on this particular sunday). We also had the last of the biscuits that I had made earlier in the day.
I want to say that I really liked this meal. However, I think that, without being able to cook this canned ham in the can, it just didn’t reach it’s full potential. The somewhat chewy outer crust wasn’t all that great, but the interior was, well, unique. The ham had absorbed the sauce and had a garlicky sweetness to it. And the texture on the inside – it was like a a dense fois gras with a hammy overtone. The texture is unlike anything I’ve ever had, and it smelled like what I imagine the air outside a kraft barbecue sauce factory smells like.
Had this been served to me in a restaurant and explained to me in the language of molecular gastronomy by a hipster waiter with food tatoos, I probably would have eaten a couple of dainty bites and called it genius. But, I knew that it was just canned ham and I ate four fat slices.
I plan on eating the rest of it in sandwiches or cubed up in lunch salads this week. It may even make it into a weekend brunch omelet or even into a soup next week. We certainly have a ton of it left over.