A Ham By Any Other Name...

Variation on traditional recipe ignites readers' passion

“Life, Love, Food”- I have that phrase on my business card.  Food is more than just fuel for our bodies.  Food brings comfort.  It links us to places, times in our lives, family events and favorite people.   

Food traditions are also historically important.  Do you know anyone who cans his own garden harvest in Mason jars?  Have you ever made bread without using a machine?  As we enjoy the benefits of fresh foods available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, we risk losing the history of many dishes we enjoy.

Tinker with a food tradition and you risk the ire of those who hold it dear, something I discovered last week when I wrote a column onfor the Easter holiday.   The recipe I offered was a variation on Southern Maryland stuffed ham, a traditional food originating in the 17th century in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. 

In creating my recipe, I made use of several of the ingredients in the Southern Maryland ham with a shorter, easier preparation.  I used a pre-cooked ham and added apples to the stuffing mix, because they are a natural complement to pork and greens.   With a 45-minute cooking time, it made a tasty, easy-to-prepare Easter dinner.  But…

Leslie Hunt, editor of the Severna Park Patch, was one of the first to sound the alarm.  Her husband grew up in St. Mary’s County and was “horrified” to see this variation of a tradition he holds dear.  The Hunts have been making stuffed hams for over 20 years.  Leslie even wrote about it for Patch .

Readers weighed in with specific ingredients for authentic Southern Maryland stuffed ham.  “…the ham MUST be a deboned CORNED ham” wrote Bev Hills in the Crofton Patch comments. “The stuffing for the corned ham must include cabbage, kale, mustard and celery seed and several kinds of pepper.” 

Reader Linda Anderkin agreed.  She pointed out that true Southern Maryland stuffed ham is wrapped in cheesecloth and then a pillowcase and boiled outside for hours to prevent the strong odor from permeating upholstery.  A 20 pound corned ham with about 7 pounds of stuffing will take about 7 hours to boil.  “While your version sounds delicious,” Anderkin wrote, “it is not true to the region.”

To Linda, Bev and the entire Hunt family- you are correct!  My stuffed ham recipe is not “true to the region.”  It was a variation designed for great taste and ease of use, while paying homage to the original.  My recipe is adaptive cooking for folks who would like a stuffed ham but can’t undertake the unique preparation of Southern Maryland stuffed ham.

I appreciate the level of passion in each response.  As a professional chef, I value those who feel as strongly as I do about food.  In each remark, I heard undertones of history and family connected with this dish.  I believe that traditional Southern Maryland stuffed ham should be celebrated and shared with each generation.

If you have never tasted Southern Maryland stuffed ham, see for a traditional recipe and explore more the history of this entrée at www.stuffed-ham.com .  If the preparation is daunting, you can have a traditional stuffed ham shipped to you from several St. Mary’s independent grocers.  Life, Love, Food.  Enjoy!

LLA May 03, 2011 at 11:56 PM
Nicki Mayo May 04, 2011 at 12:16 PM
You know I really need to try this dish. I have to admit I'm a native and I've NEVER had it.


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