In addition to overseeing the daily menus and many house slaves at Mount Vernon, Martha Washington carefully supervised the preparation of the hams that were served to their many dinner guests. But of all the food produced at Mount Vernon it is said that Martha was “especially proud of her hams.”
After slaughtering and butchering hogs in December and January, slaves smoked the meat over a fire pit in the smokehouse to preserve it for eating during the coming year. After smoking, the meat was aged and stored in the smokehouse. According to historians at Mount Vernon:
a thief would occasionally break into the smokehouse at night and steal a ham.
However, the most notable ham theft occured in broad daylight, right off the Washingtons' dining room table. The thief was a hound named Vulcan, who made a running pass at the table and dashed out the door with the savory prize clenched between his teeth. A chase ensued, and the ham was recovered; but, of course, nobody wanted to eat it after that!
Although Martha was furious, George reportedly thought the incident was very funny and "delighted in recounting it to guests. If you'd like to prepare a special Glazed Baked Ham, for your Mother's Day Brunch this weekend, here is a simple and delicious recipe to try from southernfood.com
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 fully cooked ham, about 6 pounds
In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, honey, wine, and pineapple juice. Place the ham in the marinade, turn to coat well, and let marinate for 6 hours or overnight in refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the ham on a rack in a roasting pan, reserving marinade for basting. Bake the ham, basting frequently with the reserved marinade, until a meat thermometer (not touching the bone) reads about 140°, or about 10 minutes per pound.
FAST FACT: Biographers say that "George Washington's attitude toward slavery changed as he grew older. During the Revolution, as he and fellow patriots strove for liberty, Washington became increasingly conscious of the contradiction between this struggle and the system of slavery. By the time of his presidency, he seems to have believed that slavery was wrong and against the principles of the new nation."
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