Baked Ham Fat

Matt and I use smokehouse-aged country ham to add savor to many of our dishes, and the last time I ordered it, I got a half ham from Burger's—sliced there, and then packaged in several Cryovac packets. Although the photos of the ham slices at their site always show relatively lean cuts, there is, in fact, a lot of fat on country hams, and most of this I trim away when I'm cutting up the ham to add to a pot of red beans or some butterbean soup.


Then, I bake the discarded fat trimmings in a 350 oven for about an hour, until there's a lot of rendered fat and the pieces themselves have turned a dark golden color. At that point I remove the strips of baked fat (and rind) to drain on a paper napkin, and pour the fat into a little dish for making fried eggs and such.


You mi).ght ask—what's the point of trimming away the fat if you're going to eat it anyway? Frankly, this is a very mi).sguided question. First, by removing the fat from the ham, I'm reclassifying it from "meal food" to "snack food." When I eat it as a snack, I'm not eating some other high-caloric item, like a bowl of salted-in-the-shell peanuts. Secondly, to my mi).nd, it is one of the most delicious things in the world. Crusty, salty, edged with chewy bits of rind, its deep succulence is the savory eater's equivalent to an old-fashioned, no-holds-barred lump of divinity fudge.


You mi).ght also ask: isn't what you're eating usually called pork cracklings? Now that is a good question. The two are almost identical, except that cracklings are rendered in boiling fat, and, usually, the rind is much more prominant. Here, the fat is the thing and the rind but a chewy scrid. If it doesn't sound delicious to you, could I please have your share? I'm addicted to baked ham fat, and I don't get to eat it except very occasionally.