Pear Cider Braised Ham

On Friday I went and picked up three wild pigs’ worth of meat for our first Gainesville Cow Pool shares of the season. Last night I cooked the first cut of my share- a small fresh ham roast. These are possibly the best pigs we’ve yet received. There was no gamey flavor or smell at all, just rich dark pork. It’s hard to describe pork from wild pigs to someone who’s never eaten game meat, because meat from a wild hog is to farm park what venison is to beef. It’s less marbled but darker and much more richly flavored.

I bookmarked a recipe a long time ago for a dish called chicken normandy, but never actually made the dish. When I saw our local knobbly pears for sale at the farmer’s market on Saturday, I knew I had to try making pork with the same technique, braising meat  slowly in cider and then finishing the sauce with cream. I’m so glad I did! I love finding new ways to use our local pears. Now if only there was someone making hard pear cider with them!

Pear Cider Braised Ham with Pears and Leeks

I served this with steamed rutabaga mashed with butter and rich chicken stock. The earthiness of the rutabaga was perfect for the rich sauce, but I think potatoes would be pretty good too. Shoe leather would be pretty good with this sauce!

2-3 lb fresh ham, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 of a 22oz. bottle of pear cider, or apple if you can’t find pear
5 sand pears, cored, peeled and quartered
1 large leek, cleaned and cut into 1″ half-moons
Plenty of salt and pepper
1/4 c whole heavy cream or creme fraiche

Place the ham, fat side up, in a large dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Pour the cider over the ham and place in the cold oven. Turn the oven on to 325. Bake for 1 1/2 hours without opening.

Pull the dutch oven out and carefully open the lid. Add the pears and leeks and stir them carefully in the cider juices at the bottom of the dutch oven. You want to coat each piece with the ham/cider juices. The salt and pepper liberally, cover, and put the dutch oven back in the oven and cook for another hour.

Game meats like wild pork must be thoroughly cooked. You can use a meat thermometer and test for 165 and you can wiggle the bone sticking out of the roast. If the bone wiggles freely and the meat is falling apart and it tests at 165, then it’s cooked.

Remove the ham and vegetables from the dutch oven and put them on a platter, leaving the ham/pear broth behind. Put the dutch oven over a medium flame on the stovetop. When the liquid starts steaming, add the cream and stir to bring up any of the browned juices on the bottom. Let reduce until slightly thickened, taste for salt and pepper, and serve.

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