Farm Focus: Picnic Hams and Boston Butts

Farm Focus: Picnic Hams and Boston Butts

When is a butt a shoulder? When it’s a Boston Butt, of course! Boston Butts and Picnic Hams both use meat from the shoulder area of the hog. (The Boston Butt gets its name from the cask used to ship the meat in the Boston area). Cook shoulder meat low and slow, and the fatty connective tissue melts away, flavoring the meat with savory juices.

Boston butt lives high on the hog, above the shoulder blade, and has lots of luscious, marbled fat. Sitting below the butt is the pork shoulder. This cut includes most of the hog’s front leg quarter. This meat is a little tougher than the butt, but again low and slow gives the meat succulence and incredible tenderness. Picnics generally have a bone and include some of the hock and are cheaper than Bostons. Think barbecue for the Picnic, and flavorful, juicy pulled pork.

We love this recipe that appeared in the New York Times last Easter. We have prepared it many times to rave reviews and especially love the comment from Norman Van Aken, the Miami chef and restauranteur about his Easter weekend, “Ham for a horde.”

Here’s your Ham for a Horde recipe:

10- to 12-pound butt or shank portion fresh ham, skin on
4 teaspoons kosher salt
4 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 cup maple syrup
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup pecans, toasted
½ cup candied ginger

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Using a sharp knife, score entire surface of ham in a diamond pattern, cutting down just through the skin to the flesh underneath. (If you are cutting to the right depth, the skin will spread apart a bit as you cut.) Rub outside of ham all over with salt and pepper, pressing it intocrosshatch spaces between the skin. Put roast on a rack in a large roasting pan and place in oven.After 20 minutes, reduce oven to 300 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, balsamic vinegar and cinnamon. Baste ham hourly with mixture, as well as with fat from the bottom of the pan, roasting until the very center of the ham reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees, 2 1/2 to 3 hours total cooking time. (Begin checking at 2 hours, inserting a meat thermometer into the absolute center of the roast.)Put the toasted pecans and candied ginger into a food processor and pulse lightly until crumbled and well combined.

When ham is done, remove it from roasting pan, shower with pecan-ginger mixture and cover it loosely with foil. Allow the meat to rest for 20 to 30 minutes. (Its internal temperature will rise to 150 or more as it rests.)

Tip roasting pan to the side so you can spoon off all the fat from the pan juices, then place pan on stove over medium-high heat. Scrape the bottom of pan to free any browned bits, skim any film off surface and season liquid as needed with salt and pepper. Pour into a gravy boat.

Carve ham into thick slices, drizzle with pan sauce and serve, passing remaining sauce on the side.

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