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Parsleyed Salt-Cured Ham (Jambon Persillé)

This is a traditional preparation of Burgundy, but now it is found all over France. It makes a beautiful charcuterie first course, with the bright green parsley and deep red ham glistening in the wine-scented jelly. Serve it with mustard and cornichons on the side, accompanied with a chilled white wine.

Jambon cru, or “raw ham,” is ham that has been cured in salt. It is a popular charcuterie item throughout France, with each region using different breeds of pigs and customizing their curing technique. Bayonne, in the Pyrenees, is especially famous for its hams.

Ingredients:

  • 1 piece boneless jambon cru or prosciutto, about 2 lb.
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 5 yellow or white onions
  • 1 veal shank, about 1/2 lb.
  • 1 calf’s foot, 1 1/2 to 2 lb.
  • 2 fresh chervil sprigs
  • 2 fresh tarragon sprigs
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 shallots
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 bottle (750ml) dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup plus 5 Tbs. Cognac
  • 2 Tbs. powdered pectin
  • 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

Place the ham in a large pot, add water to cover and let soak overnight to remove some of the salt.

The next day, pour off the water. In the same large pot, combine the ham with water to cover. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 1 hour.

Pour off the cooking water and rinse the ham in cold water. Wash the pot and return the ham to it. Stick the 3 cloves in 1 onion and then add all 5 onions to the pot along with the veal shank, calf’s foot, chervil, tarragon, thyme, garlic, shallots, water, wine and the 1/4 cup Cognac.

Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that collects on the surface, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer, occasionally skimming off any foam, until the ham can be separated with a fork, about 1 hour.

Remove the ham and the other meats from the cooking liquid and set aside. Pour the liquid through a sieve and discard the vegetables and herbs. Then line the sieve with several layers of cheesecloth, place over a clean saucepan and pour the liquid through it again. Set aside.

Using a fork, tear the ham, including any fat, into chunky pieces. Strip the veal from the shank bone and tear the meat into small pieces, discarding any fat. Pack half of the ham and the veal into a 2-quart glass or ceramic bowl.

Place the saucepan with the liquid over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Pour one-fourth of the hot liquid into another bowl and add the pectin, stirring until completely dissolved. Stir the liquid-pectin mixture into the liquid remaining in the pan and remove it from the heat.

Sprinkle the ham with 1 Tbs. of the vinegar, 2 Tbs. of the Cognac and 1/2 tsp. of the pepper. Pour half of the liquid over the ham, then sprinkle with about half of the parsley. Add the remaining ham and then sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbs. vinegar, 3 Tbs. Cognac, 1/2 tsp. pepper and the parsley. Pour the remaining liquid over all. The ham may float to the surface, but it will eventually settle.

Cover and refrigerate overnight to set the jelly and chill thoroughly. It will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. To serve, using a very sharp knife, cut into slices 1/2 inch thick and carefully remove them from the bowl. Serves 15.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring France, by Georgeanne Brennan (Time-Life Books, 1999).