As a family we can eat a ton of food in one night and leftovers normally disappear as after school/work snacks, but there is at least one hunk of meat too large us: the fresh ham. The fresh ham or picnic ham is one of the cheapest cuts in your grocery store and it’s constantly on sale. But at 7-9 pounds you better have an army to feed or a plan on how to serve and re-serve this wonderful pork cut. The picnic ham is normally the shank with a portion of the shoulder and blade, it’s the same part of the pig that is cured/smoked to make a “ham ham,” you know the stuff you eat at Easter. My plan is to totally transform the picnic ham from one meal to the next with as little work as possible.
The first night it’s a Cuban style feast. Slow roasted fresh ham with some basic spices served with black beans and rice, a little lime to squeeze on the meat and you will think you are heading to Miami for dinner. The left over fresh ham is tender and flavorful and can work great for sandwiches or salads, but my plan is to chunk it up and pop it into the crock pot with some doctored up store bought BBQ sauce and make yummy BBQ sandwiches. The best part is that family never really figures out that the second dinner is leftovers; they just know that when they walk in the house smells like their favorite BBQ joint. I normally will roast the ham on a Sunday so that I am home to watch and smell the transformation of raw pig into yummy pork heaven. Then on about Wednesday of that week I make the crockpot BBQ pork sandwiches.
Wondering what to do with the leftover meat still stuck tot he bone? I have a great crockpot posole soup recipe that will get a third meal out of you fresh ham!
Fresh Picnic Ham Two Ways: Cuban Style & BBQ
For the Cuban style fresh ham
- 1 Fresh ham skin on
- ¼ cup season salt like Adobo
- 2 tbs dry granulated garlic
- Lots of black pepper
- Lime and cilantro for garnish
For the pork sandwiches
- 1-2 pounds leftover fresh ham chunked into medium sized pieces
- 1 bottle of your favorite store bought BBQ sauce
- 1 small onion very thinly sliced
- ½ cup of beer
- 4-6 Buns/rolls
For the BBQ Sauce - Any or all of the following to taste
- Chili powder
- Brown sugar
- Worcestershire sauce
- Spicy or regular mustard
- Hot sauce
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. While the oven heats score the skin by slicing through the skin and fat to the meat below. Be careful not to cut to deep.
Then rub the ham all over with spices, you can rub on a little olive oil to help the spices stick. Put the ham on to a roasting rack in a pan and place in the oven for at least 4 hours.
The longer you cook it the more the internal fat and muscle will break down; my mother cooks a fresh ham for at 6+ hours, she wants it falling apart. I like mine to have a little more substance left so I go more like 4-5. It’s your choice.
Right before you remove the cooked ham from the oven turn it up to about 425 degrees and let the skin on top brown, don’t let it burn. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove the cooked ham from the oven and let it rest at least 20 minutes so the juices can redistribute.
Now it is time to start cutting this big boy up. Begin by removing that lovely crispy skin. The skin is very similar to chicharon, Latin American dish of fried pork skin. I serve the skin on the side like a lovely pork flavored appetizer, my mother finds this gross so do what you would like. You can also dice the skin up small and sprinkle it over the sliced pork to serve it. Or if you want to break my heart you can discard the skin.
To slice the ham cut parallel to the bone and you will be able to free large wedge shaped sections of the ham from the center bone. It’s not going to be as pretty as you thanksgiving turkey carving but oh well.
I serve the meat with a squeeze of lime, sprinkle of cilantro, and dash of salt. I always serve this “Cuban style” pork with rice and black beans. Find my recipe for black beans here.
Crockpot BBQ pork sandwiches
This is more of a technique than a true recipe. Mostly because I don’t know how much leftover pork you have left going into your crock pot. I would guess I had about 1-2 pounds of meat left when I made this batch the other day. I also don’t know what your family likes in their BBQ sauce, in this house we go for sweet but with a bit of heat. What I am going to give you is the quick and dirty guide to crockpot pork sandwiches; you can fine tune the details to match what your family loves. I normally would serve this meal with coleslaw, but the cabbage in the store this week was sad and pricy so I went with a regular salad and green beans, I did not hear anyone complaining between bites of their sandwich.
This is a really simple dinner, toss the meat, onion and beer into the pot then add the enough BBQ sauce to lightly coat the meat and taste it. Adjust the flavors to what you like, heck if you have a brand of store bought sauce you like enough don’t do anything. I find a bit of catsup some Worcestershire sauce, a squeeze of mustard and some hot sauce will make any store bough sauce better.
If you have all day then set the crockpot on low if you have only about 4 hours then crank it up to high. Let the pork simmer away until it starts to smell great and the edges brown a little. I like to give is a stir once in a while, but I am guessing it would be fine without the added attention. The pork will break up when you stir it, and that is how I like it best for sandwiches.
When it’s time to eat I just scoop it on to buns with a thin sliced onion and bread & butter pickles on the side.
If you want to find a way to use up every last bit of pork check out my Simple Posole recipe that uses the fresh ham bone.