In Spring, a Young Man's Fancy Turns to Leftover Ham

 As I write this, the thermometer registers 72F outside and we have officially turned off the furnace until October. Never mind if, after this balmy warm spell, the temperature plunges back into the 40s and 50s--it's officially spring. Like most Pacific Northwesterners, I've learned the stubbornness of pretending our weather follows the calendar.

Spring finds us surrounded by flowering rhododendrons and pink and white trees, and the daffodils have given way to the tulips. In the front yard, the lilacs burst in their brief bloom. (And why, with all the amazing GMOs running around, has no one yet invented a lilac that blooms continuously, or at least twice in one year? I would trade all the GMO soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton in the world for one good GMO lilac.)

Anywho, around our house we've celebrated the spring-Easter-rainbow connection with ham in all forms:
1. Easter dinner ham, with all the fixings.
2. Ham and bean soup.
3. Ham and pasta casserole.
4. Ham and egg quiche.

Tonight the ham reappears as ham itself, but this time accompanied by a vintage curried rice recipe given to me twenty years ago and some creamed chard.

Kathy's Mom's Curried Rice
(4 servings)
2 cups cooked white or brown rice (I do half and half)
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
2 Tbsp toasted slivered almonds (I'm using raw, sliced almonds)
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
fresh mint leaves

1. Cook rice.
2. Melt butter in heavy skillet. Add onion and saute until tender.
3. Add rice, almonds, raisins, and seasoning (leave out the mint), and blend.
4. Serve garnished with mint or parsley.

As for the creamed chard, I removed the stems and chopped it up:

Then I'll braise it in butter with some sliced garlic. When it's all wilted, I'll pour in 1/2 cup cream or so, and simmer until the cream thickens. That's it. Yum.

I did say farewell to lingering winter this week, however, by reading a book about the maple syrup industry. And I do mean "industry."

I was hoping for more of a microhistory of maple syrup, rather than this close following of how the industry works today, but this was interesting nonetheless. In short, things have changed since that sugaring-off scene in Little House in the Big Woods, although at one point everyone still enjoys drizzling hot syrup over snow like Mary and Laura did. It still mystifies me why the stuff is so danged expensive, since they've managed to ramp up production so.  

A couple tidbits:

  • Vermont produces 40% of the maple syrup crop in the US. (Total US crop in 2010 was 20 million pounds, or about 1.8 million gallons.)
  • Climate change threatens to end production in southerly areas within the next 50 years.
  • The Canadian dept of ag created a flavor wheel for maple syrup that would delight the snobbiest foodie, identifying notes of "marshmallow, dark brown sugar, brown coffee bean..., roasted dandelion root, coconut, mango, or baking apple. Or even hay."
  • Brand-name pancake syrups used to contain 15% maple syrup. Then it went down to 2%. Nowadays they use corn syrup and artificial flavor, a derivative of the fenugreek plant.

And, did I mention, maple syrup goes great with leftover ham?
Happy Spring, all. Enjoy the sunshine.