Now, I have to preface this by saying that it took me 4 grocery stores and several days to find the smoked shoulder picnic I was looking for. And it’s March, not the least Irish month of the year, and these cuts should have been more readily available…but no. Instead, I got to listen to my grandmother’s extremely low opinion of me, considering that I couldn’t even make a boiled dinner correctly. To quote the woman herself: “You just throw it in a damn pot and boil it!” Ah, familial bonding.
The history: I grew up eating this several times a year. As a child, I would pick all the cabbage bits out and feast happily on the ham, potatoes and carrots…smothering my ham with French’s yellow mustard and mashing my potatoes with a fork and buttering, salting and peppering the heck out of them. And we ate leftovers for days. It was wonderful. Something magical happens to those vegetables when they cook in the same water that the smoked shoulder boils in. Eating this meal, more than any other, was like pulling up a chair and tucking into a plate of my childhood, in all the best ways, warm and sustaining.
Fast forward many years, I attempted to make this and screwed up mightily by buying the wrong cut. I bought a pork shoulder picnic. I thought I had the right one. No. It was gross. It was boiled pork, not the tender ham I so fondly remembered. Blech. So it threw me off making this for a long time because suitNtie was so horrified.
Now, a few years later, I’m attempting it again. I’m just egotistical enough to need to perfect it. Turns out I simply bought the wrong cut. So, over the course of three days and four different grocery stores, and many frantic cell phone calls from the pork/ham sections of the refrigerated meat area…I proudly sent a photo to my grandmother of the two SMOKED BONELESS SHOULDER PICNICS (note: it does not say pork anywhere and is found with the hams) and received confirmation from the source that I had it right.
One of the awesome things about this recipe is that it makes a lot; you can adjust it to the size of your family. For the Kitchen’s purposes (three good eaters and one super picky one), I’m doing the following:
2 3 lb. smoked boneless shoulder picnics (see instructions above to make sure you have the right darned hunk of ham, please), boiled in a large pot for two hours. Keep it covered with water (adding if necessary)
*1 head cabbage
*1 bag carrots, peeled
*6 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into thirds or fourths, depending on size
*Add your cabbage (chopped up, please) and carrots together into the pot after you’ve removed your smoked shoulder to a plate (and covered it with foil). Let them cook for about 10 minutes and then add your potatoes. You may need to gauge the timing- the carrots and cabbage take longer than the potatoes. Once done, you’ll need to strain the veggies. I like to let them sit about 5 minutes prior to serving just to steam off any excess water that might be hiding in the cabbage.
Any leftovers will reheat beautifully. Have some vinegar ready for your cabbage, should you so desire. Personally, I break out the yellow mustard, butter (or butter substitute), salt and pepper and just dig in.