“In choosing a ham, ascertain that it is perfectly sweet, by running a sharp knife into it, close to the bone; and if, when the knife is withdrawn, it has an agreeable smell, the ham is good; if, on the contrary, the blade has a greasy appearance and offensive smell, the ham is bad.” — Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management
This recipe, written in 1861, may seem antiquated, but it is a throwback to the Edwardian and Victorian eras. It was a typical main course served at dinner parties; stewed beef was also a popular centerpiece.
If the ham has been long hung, and is very dry and salt, let it remain in soak for 24 hours, changing the water frequently. This length of time is only necessary in the case of its being very hard. Wash it thoroughly clean, and trim away from the underside all the rusty and smoked parts which would spoil the appearance.
Put it into a large pot, with sufficient cold water to cover it; bring it gradually to boil, and as the scum rises, carefully remove it. Keep it simmering very gently until tender, and be careful that it does not stop boiling, nor boil too quickly. A ham weighing 10 pounds will take 4 hours; one weighing 15 pounds will take 5 hours.
When done, take it out of the pot, strip off the skin, and sprinkle over it a few fine breadcrumbs, put a frill of cut paper round the knuckle, and serve. If to be eaten cold, let the ham remain in the water until nearly cold: By this method the juices are kept in, and it will be found infinitely superior to one taken out of the water hot; it should, however, be borne in mind that the ham must not remain in the saucepan all night.
Garnish with parsley and serve.