We’ve been cooking the things for years & have tried many methods. I start the same way with all of them. Scrub under running water with a brush; use of vinegar or soap is optional. Do not remove the skin. Do remove the hock and then soak overnight; we’ve decided that plain water does as well as anything else, although Coke is a tradition in my family. Then:
- Ignore all of the above and slice off a piece, cut off the skin and, if you like, soak briefly in water or milk. Then fry just enough to brown lightly.
- Bring to a boil in the biggest pot you can find (a lard stand is ideal), but be sure it’s completely covered with water. Simmer for 5 minutes per pound, then remove from heat, wrap the container in newspaper or something to insulate. Put it in a cool place (back porch or garage maybe) and allow to cool. Pour off liquid (it will be incredibly greasy), and remove skin and as much fat as possible. Slice as thinly as you can if serving as is; slice thicker if you’re going to fry it. Glazing is optional but pretty if you want to carve in public.
- Bake, uncovered, skin side up on a rack to about 145-150. Residual heat will bring it to 160.
A digital thermometer with a probe attached to a cable is very helpful. Mine has a remote readout with an alarm, which I like.
My great-great aunt cured her own and maintained that anything less than two years was a waste of time. All of this applies to West Tennessee/Kentucky hams, which are salty enough that they need no refrigeration before cooking. Some people even leave them hanging outdoors and cut off a piece as needed, but I’ve never had the nerve for that.
Smithfield ham, as I remember from my one experience, is very good but not nearly as salty, so I doubt it could be left unrefrigerated. (Mr. Mayor, an untutored warehouse clerk might have left your ham in a warm place too long.)