Today’s recipe is everything we’ve come to love from Bon Appetit Wednesday: unique, ancient, mysterious, healthy and delicious. Hay may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of cooking a ham, but you might want to consider it the next time you have a dinner party.
Cooking in hay has been practiced for hundreds of years and is making a comeback in modern restaurants. Historically, the cooking method was preferred because it was low-energy and efficient. Haybox cookers provided insulation that “enabled foods briefly brought to a boil to finish cooking fuel-free.” Today, chefs are using hay for its flavor, creating recipes for hay ice cream, hay-infused yogurt and hay meat rubs.
No one is sure exactly when Ham ‘n Hay became popular, but considering the ingredients have been available for centuries, it has most likely been enjoyed since ancient times. The recipe exists in 17th century cookbooks and Hannah Woolley, an English writer from the 1600s, wrote about it in her book, The Queen-like Closet. The hay was used not only for its ability to impart a delicious, mellow flavor to the ham, but also to keep the ham from burning and to absorb impurities. It makes sense that hay would be popular in ancient cooking since it was inexpensive and peasants would have had access to it in abundance. As with so many ancient recipes, necessity was probably the mother of invention.
You may think hay is only for horses, but hopefully we’ve given you some food for thought and you’ll consider trying this ancient ingredient. Take a chance and make some Ham ‘n Hay With Beer, and if you see a hay dish the next time you visit a restaurant, give it a try!
Ham ‘n Hay With Beer
Recipe courtesy of The Gastronomical Me
- An unsmoked leg of pork
- Dark beer- enough to cover the ham when placed in a deep pot
- 10-15 allspice berries
- Bay leaves
- Cover the ham with just enough water, add a few handfuls of hay and boil briefly 3 times: Boil one to two minutes, then rest in the same hay water for 15 minutes, boil again and so on. No change of water.
- Take the ham out, pour enough beer to cover the ham into a cleaned pot, add some peeled onions, about 10-15 allspice berries, a few bay leaves, the half-cooked ham, bring to boil and simmer until cooked (about 15 minutes for a pound of flesh).
- Once cooked, take out and let cool before serving.
 Langmuir, M. (n.d.). Stable-to-Table Dining. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
 Woolley, H. (n.d.). The Queen-Like Closet. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
 Researching Food History – Cooking and Dining. (n.d.). Retrieved July 8, 2015, from http://researchingfoodhistory.blogspot.com/2011/10/ham-n-hay.html