Hundred-Year-Old Directions for Boiled Ham

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, September 4, 1913:  I guess most any one could guess what followed for today.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

ham1This modern ham is NOTHING like hams a hundred years ago. Old-time hams were smoked in smoke houses,  salty, and very flavorful (and probably had lots of nitrates that weren’t good for us).   (Picture Source: Real Simple)

The threshers were at the Muffly farm. The previous day Grandma wrote that the threshing machine had arrived.

Neighbors and the threshing machine operators would all be helping with the threshing. And, the men who came to help expected a big meal. Grandma, her sister Ruth, their mother, and perhaps some neighbor women would have spent the day cooking and serving a huge meal—and then they would have washed mountains of dishes.

What did foods did they serve?  . . . desserts .  .  . potatoes . . .meat. . . .

Ham was popular back then.  I bet they served incredible ham that had been cured and smoked on the farm the previous winter.

Here are the directions for cooking a ham in a hundred-year-old cookbook:

Boiled Ham

Select a medium-sized ham; soak overnight in cold water. Clean and wipe; cover with cold water; bring to the boiling point, and then simmer until tender, allowing thirty minutes to the pound. Cool in water in which it was cooked. Take off the skin, sprinkle with sugar, and cover with seasoned cracker crumbs. Bake twenty to thirty minutes. Decorate with cloves, garnish with parsley and lemon, and serve hot or cold.

A more aromatic flavor is given to the ham if a bouquet of sweet herbs and one half cup each of onions, carrots, and turnips are boiled with it. Many baste the ham, when baking with cider.

Lowney’s Cook Book – Revised Edition (1912)

Here’s a few previous posts with recipes for seasonal foods that may have been served to the threshers:

Open-faced Apple Pie

Pickled Cabbage (Pepper Hash)

Pickled Beets and Eggs

Spiced (Pickled) Crab Apples

26 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Directions for Boiled Ham

  1. Growing up just a few miles from “the ham capital of the world” (Smithfield, Virginia), I’m very familiar with hams. But I don’t recall hearing it referred to as “boiling” – it was just cooking a ham to us!
    I’m sure threshing was a busy time on Grandma’s farm…

  2. I love ham; and so does my chef-husband. But he is severely allergic to propylene glycol (a bi-product of bio-diesel), and they’re putting it in the curing salts that most companies are using in bacon/ham these days (p-g has anti-caking properties, and is cheaper than xanthum gum or guar gum, which is what they used to use for anit-caking). And I’d take that 100-year-old ham any day over most of what’s being sold to us today.

  3. As someone who sometimes reads the last chapter of the book first because I need to know what happens, does Helena meet and journal about her future husband? Have I already asked this?

    1. Grandma and her future husband (Raymond Swartz) knew each other when she was writing the diary. They both were in the graduating class of 1913 at McEwensville High School. See the commencement program with both of their names at:

      There were only 6 people in the graduating class, but Grandma never mentions Raymond in the diary by name. I think that one of the biggest mysteries of the diary is why she doesn’t mention him.

      Raymond was 3 1/2 years younger than Helena–and he was 14 1/2 when he graduated from high school. I think that he skipped several grades. My guess is that she didn’t find him interesting at the time–and considered him just a little kid who wasn’t worth mentioning in the diary.

    1. I’m glad you enjoy it. I have a lot of fun researching and writing the posts, and it is wonderful to hear when someone especially enjoys the contextual information.

  4. We used to buy a whole ham during Christmas when my children were younger. Nowadays we only buy 200g for breakfast as they spoil easily in our humid conditions even though we refrigerate them. The recipe sounds lovely and I wonder if I could get ham for own cooking (I’ve only seen ready to eat ham here in Singapore). Perhaps I should visit specialist butcher’s shop and see if they carry these during the festive.

  5. Okay, this post really sounds a lot like “Little House on the Prairie”. She described the smoking process…and maybe even included a bit about her mother cooking ham? Either way, it’s making me want to read those books again. 😀

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