One of my stated goals for 2013 is make things a little easier – make things simpler. One of the ways that I found as a good stepping off point for that goal was to use what I have in the house in creative and simple ways before going out of my way to make things more complex.
Two ham hocks into the New Year, I feel like this goal might be attainable. Being long on ham is the best kind of problems and working your ham supply down is one of life’s most delicious struggles, so when white bean and ham soup with herbs and orange was in my queue just days after hoppin’ john and greens, I complied.
However, in both the case of the greens as well as the soup, after long cooks, I was left with a lovely hock of ham, the first was from Kite’s, the second from Scott’s. After shredding the flesh, I was left with skin and the attached fat and it would not go to waste.
The first batch that I made with the Kite’s hock was pureed ham skin that cooled. Once it cooled, I blended it once more and weighed the puree and then strained it. I added pre-strained weight in room temp butter to the mixture and blended one last time. I potted this nearly snow white mixture in a Weck jar and went on my way.
A few days later, I made the white bean soup, this time working with the still hot Scott’s hock, I pureed the hock, then strained it, and finally weighed it. I added equal post-straining weight in butter to the hot mixture and blended it. The resulting mixture is darker, but the flavor difference is more stark.
Both butters are delicious and how could they not be? Butter and the combination of country ham skin and fat make for something very tasty. The first batch is like butter flavored with country ham whereas the second version tends towards a buttery version of country ham lard. Again delicious, but the difference is clear in both flavor and texture.
I had my favorite three year old in the world bake up some cornbread for testing. Short of biscuits, I can not think of a more traditional tasting vehicle for country ham butter than cornbread and this version was particularly good. She knows, even at 3, that the skillet has to be blazing hot when the batter goes in and thusly, a beautiful crust formed around the Geechie Boy coarse ground cornmeal.
When tasted side by side, I liked this first version a little better. The sweetness of the butter seemed to be in balance with the savory qualities from the country ham. The second version, while delicious, almost seemed to edge up to rillettes rather than a compound butter in flavor.
In any regard, both versions are quite useful around the house in preparing vegetables and simply buttering cornbread. Country ham butter was made with using what was not only already in the house, but also already being cooked. It feels like found butter made with found time was an important step one in making things simpler in 2013.