Boiled Bacon and Cabbage, what we would call Boiled Ham in the United States, is ubiquitous in Ireland and is common in some form or another throughout the UK and Ireland (and parts of the US heavily influenced by one or both). This dish shares a common lineage with and a common form with New England Boiled Dinner. In the UK and Ireland back bacon (Canadian Bacon), collar bacon (very nearly the same), or gammon (what we in the states traditionally think of as ham) would be the proper cuts to use. Basically any ol’ cured bit of lean pork seems to do, I generally go for whatever is on sale (almost always something analogous to gammon), cut it down into about 4 pound chunks and use the bone for split pea soup. But then again I’m a cheapskate. Not that I don’t love a good country ham or good back bacon, its just this kitchen operates on a budget. As well you can use either green or savoy cabbage for this dish. I prefer savoy, but I usually end up with the cheaper green cabbage.
Boiling Bacon is a decidedly unpretentious dish, as it should be. Simple country food. The boiling produces a moist and tender cut that has a different flavor from the baked hams most people are now accustomed to. I often find baked hams overly salty and/or coated in a sticky sweet syrup that overpowers the delicate flavor of the meat. Boiled Bacon and Cabbage is at it simplest it is just ham and cabbage, but potatoes and any number of other root vegetables also go well with it.
- 4 to 5 lb ready to eat ham (precooked) or similar sized piece of cured (ready to cook) ham*
- 1 head of cabbage, green or savoy, coarsely shredded
- white pepper
- Cover the ham in cold water and bring to a boil, skim the white froth off the surface, cover and simmer. For a ready to eat ham (precooked) simmer for 1 hour until warmed through (140 F). For a cured (uncooked) ham simmer for about 1 1/2 hours (20 minutes per pound, adjust as needed) until cooked through (160 F) and tender.
- Coarsely shred the cabbage, about 1/2 hour before the ham is done add the cabbage to the pot. When the cabbage and ham are done remove the ham and keep warm, drain the water off the cabbage.
- In a large saute pan melt a knob or two of butter, add the cabbage, sprinkle with white pepper and mix thoroughly.
- Slice and serve the ham with cabbage on the side. Boiled potatoes and a parsley sauce or mustard sauce are all fine accompaniments.