Ham cooked in hay is a very old method of cooking cured hams. Written recipes are rare, but word-of-mouth recipes may be found in France and Belgium. Suffice it to say that hay adds a fresh and unique complex flavor to cured pork. Here in Pennsylvania, I use a “country ham” from Lancaster County, and usually cook it with Timothy hay. I have never tried this method with a Smithfield type of ham but I would think a good 24 hour pre-soak in fresh water -- changing the water several times BEFORE cooking -- would be required.
Herbs are not required, but on occasion I add some fresh bay leaves and maybe a few springs of fresh rosemary. The herb bouquet below is what Chef Paul Bocuse uses when he makes Jambon au Foin at his famous restaurant in Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or near Lyons, France.
1 Lightly cured smoked ham
2 lbs Hay (Timothy hay is my favorite, but Alfalfa or Clover also are fine)
1 Sprig Thyme
1 Sprig Rosemary
2 Bay Leaves
12 Juniper Berries
Peeled Zest of 1 Orange & 2 Lemons
1. Place the ham in a casserole large enough to cover the ham completely with water.
Optional: Using a blowtorch, lightly scorch the hay. This will impart a distinctive "toasted" quality to the overall flavor and enjoyment to ham cooked in this manner.
2. Add the hay, water & all the other ingredients to a casserole, place over a high heat and bring to a steady 185°F (Just below a simmer; what I call a "shimmer").
3. Periodically remove any scum that rises to the surface during cooking.
4. Cook for 3 to 3 1/2 hours then remove from the casserole, peel off the pork rind & serve at once.