This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
Every spring is held, on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir, at Paris, the ham fair, which fills the air with the odor of bacon. A double row of booths runs along the boulevard. Between bouquets of laurel are suspended cakes of dripping, sausages dry as marble, and smoked hams; large basins of lard stand about; smoked garlic-flavored sausages and other similar dainties are heaped up mountain high. Behind the exhibits are gathered whole families of country folk; the wife wears a large white apron, the husband walks about with knife in hand, inviting everybody to try his goods. The ham fair which has just been held is said to have been better supplied than it has been for years. Lyons and Aries sent the finest specimens of pork, and Bayonne was, as usual, represented by its famous hams. Garlic sausages represented the town of Vire, and from the district of the Loire, from Italy and Switzerland, the products were excellent".
Steaming is by far the best way of cooking a ham. Lay in cold water for 12 hours; wash very thoroughly, rubbing with a stiff brush to dislodge the salt and smoke on the outside. Put into a steamer, cover closely, and set it over a pot of boiling water. Allow at least 20 minutes to a pound. Keep the water at a hard boil. Spinach or some green vegetable should be served with it.
Soak the ham for 12 hours in water, place it in a deep dish or earthenware pan, and soak for 24 hours in white wine, seasoned with sliced onions, carrots, parsley, laurel-leaves, and thyme; cover the pan with a cloth, and press on the lid very tight to prevent the air getting in. Roast the ham, baste with the wine in which it was soaked. When sufficiently done, dish it on a puree of spinach.
"Brush the ham thoroughly with a dry brush, removing every particle of dust or mould. Soak for an hour in cold water, and then wash thoroughly. With a very sharp knife shaveoff cleanly the hardened surface from the face and butt of the ham. Put it over the fire in cold water and let it come to a moderate boil and keep it steadily at this point, allowing it to cook 20 minutes for every pound of meat. A ham weighing 12 lbs. will need to boil 4 hours. This time should never be cut short; on smaller hams it should rather be extended. The ham is to be served cold; allow the joint to remain in the pot after it is removed from the fire for several hours, until the water in which it has been cooked is cold. Then dish as before suggested." After a ham has been simmered it is a great improvement to put it in a moderately warm oven, with a buttered paper over it, and bake for an hour. This is a Yorkshire custom, and a good one.
At the ham-and-beef shops, which constitute one of the catering features of London, the following method of boiling hams is adopted with excellent results: The hams are always placed in cold water in a copper, under which a small fire is made, which raises the water very slowly to the boiling point. The moment this is accomplished the fire is raked out, the copper covered over, and the hams are allowed to remain in the water until it is nearly cold. By this means the flesh is rendered tender and juicy, and the loss of weight is guarded against.