A broccoli twist on traditional Kentucky country ham recipe

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By Joan Martin

Everyone at the Anderson County Senior Center enjoyed Kentucky country ham and broccoli grits when I served it there last week. They scraped the pan clean.
Country ham is a Kentucky tradition. Only six states produce country hams – Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia and Missouri.
Country ham is cured with salt, sugar and spices. The cure can be for as little as one to three months or as long as several years. The usual color is deep rose or pink. Country ham doesn’t require refrigeration due to its high salt content. It’s perfectly normal for country ham to have mold on it. Remove mold by washing the ham with a solution of two parts water to one part vinegar. The mold isn’t good to eat and may contain toxins.
Country ham is cured either dry or wet. A dry cured ham is rubbed with a mixture of salt and other ingredients. It can be stored at room temperature since bacteria doesn’t develop in the salt cured ham. A fresh ham is wet cured by injecting it with a curing solution (salts, seasonings, etc.) and then cooking. Country ham can also be smoked after curing.
Country ham can be fried, grilled, boiled or baked. Boiling removes some of the salt, fat and sugar from the ham. Baking tends to remove some of the salt and fat but not as much as boiling. If you add glazes to the ham, then sugar content is increased. Fried ham will have the highest level of fat and salt.
A 4-ounce serving of country ham has 220 calories and contains 31 grams of protein and 9 grams of fat. The fat content will be higher if you fry the ham. The sodium in ham can be reduced by soaking the ham in water before cooking.
The recipe below includes country ham and broccoli. The combination may not sound good but as I said in the beginning, everyone loved this recipe at the Senior Center.
Broccoli consumption has increased almost 10 times over the last 25 years. Preschoolers enjoy eating it raw. One half cup of raw broccoli has only 10 calories.
Broccoli is a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, iron, calcium, and fiber. Broccoli contains important phytochemicals which may prevent cancer causing substances form forming in the body.
Store broccoli in a perforated plastic bag. Keep in the refrigerator for no more than 3-5 days. Wash broccoli just before using.

Country Ham
and Broccoli Grits
1 tablespoon olive oil    
1 cup uncooked quick grits
1 cup, 2% shredded cheddar cheese        
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 large egg, beaten    
4 cups 1% milk OR 4 cups water
1 pound fresh broccoli florets or partially cook 16 oz. package of frozen florets
6 ounces country ham, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1. Coat 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Heat olive oil in skillet. Sauté broccoli, onion, garlic and red pepper flakes until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Original recipe called for  3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. This may be too hot for some people. Set mixture aside.
2. Heat milk to a boil in a large saucepan. Be careful not to scorch the milk. Some people prefer to use water which reduces the nutritional value. Slowly whisk in grits. Reduce heat and stir continuously until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in ham, broccoli mixture, cheese (reserve 2 tablespoons of the cheese), egg, salt and pepper. Mix until well blended. Pour into prepared baking dish.
3. Sprinkle with reserved cheese. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, or until top is set and lightly puffed. (Add up to 10 minutes baking time if oven was not preheated.)
Yield: 16, 1/2 cup servings for a side dish. For a main dish serve 1 cup, 8 servings.
Nutritional analysis: 120 calories, 3.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 370 mg sodium, 13 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 9 g protein.    

Joan Martin is the Anderson County Extension agent for Family and Consumer Science. She can be reached via e-mail at joan.martin@uky.edu.