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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cheese and Ham Sandwich

Many people call this a Ham and Cheese, and the great thing about this particular one is not only is the cheese home made, but so is the ham. Truly great hams are out of reach for even most of the die hard makers, but there are shortcuts you can take to make something that tastes as good or better than most of what you can find in the store, and also control exactly what you are eating (i.e., fat intake, salt, etc.).

The ham in this sandwich is a cured, lightly smoked, and long baked pork loin. I really like using the loin for ham since it is much, much lower in fat that a shoulder/butt. Plus, given a long cure and gentle cooking, it is meltingly tender. Previously I've made rosemary cured hams, honey cured, sage cured, and just the simple cure and smoke (which turns out close to Canadian bacon, and costs much, much less). Cooked on it's own without a brine or cure, most loins from factory raised pigs are dry and tasteless. Cure them with herbs, pink salt, sugar, and kosher salt and they are transformed into a ham that may not be as good as the worlds best, but is delicious in it's own right.

  • Two slices good sturdy multi-grain bread
  • Two slices home made Swiss cheese, or if you don't have home made a quality Swiss, use an outstanding cheese like Emantaller
  • 1/4 lbs thinly sliced home cured ham
  • Generous portion sauerkraut
  • Mustard
  • Butter
Butter one side of each slice of bread and place just one slice on a medium-low heat griddle, butter side down. Place two slices of cheese on bread in the griddle and wait till it just starts to melt before adding the other ingredients. Once it has started to barely melt, add the sauerkraut and ham, spread some mustard on the second slice of bread and place on top. Flip the sandwich.

Continue cooking the sandwich till desired color and heat. Serve and enjoy immediately. I like to add a chiffonade of some fresh herb right at the end (basil is picture) to give a light nose to an otherwise hearty sandwich. If you would like to learn how to cure your own hams and sausages, I highly recommend the book Charcuterie--it goes through all the ins and outs of different recipes you can make. If you want to get started without the book, the two essential ingredients are salt and curing salt. Just make sure to read the directions carefully, since curing salts is used in very small amounts--i.e. 4oz of the stuff can cure 100lbs of ham.

Basic Cure Recipe
This is straight out of Charcuterie (buy the book), and can be used in endless variation.
  • 1 pound kosher salt
  • 8 ounces granulated sugar
  • 2 ounces pink salt/curing salt
And that's it for a basic cure that will turn a loin, butt, shoulder, or other piece into ham. Use about 2 ounces of this cure for every 5 pounds of meat, and make sure to work it in like you would a dry rub.

The beauty of a basic cure like this are the things you can do with it. Why not cure a chicken breast with the basic cure + rosemary? Chops cured with sage? Beef cured with chiles? The variations are deliciously endless.

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Cheese A Day by Jeremy Pickett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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