Get­ting into stuffed ham

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­

Food is an in­te­gral part of any hol­i­day or cel­e­bra­tion. That’s the na­ture of the hu­man con­di­tion.

Spe­cial events re­quire par­tic­u­lar foods to mark the event. At our house that means grilling ev­ery Fourth of July, steamed shrimp on New Year’s Eve, Ger­man choco­late cake for my hus­band’s birth­day and stuffed ham at Christmas.

I have to ad­mit, though, I’ve never cooked my own stuffed ham. In fact, in the nearly four decades I’ve lived in South­ern Mary­land, I haven’t ever ac­tu­ally seen one be­ing made.

While I don’t know how to make one, I sure do know the best way to eat it. If you are cu­ri­ous, I pre­fer it with a lit­tle bit of mayo on white bread with plenty of greens to kick up the fla­vor a bit.

Our fam­ily has al­ways been for­tu­nate enough to ben­e­fit from fam­ily friends who are kind enough to share their bounty of stuffed ham with us. They hail from many gener-

ations of gen­uine Mary­lan­ders — sailors, wa­ter­men, and farm­ers — and their stuffed ham recipe was handed down from way back. This De­cem­ber, with the ex­pert guid­ance from the ma­tron of the fam­ily, to in­clude her per­sonal recipe, I’ll be mak­ing my own.

It’s quite a la­bor of love, re­quir­ing co­pi­ous amounts of kale, some spe­cial cook­ing equip­ment, and a great deal of time. But hey, noth­ing ven­tured, noth­ing gained. Am I right?

Usu­ally the good things in life are worth putting in the ex­tra ef­fort. Stuffed ham is such an es­sen­tial South­ern Mary­land food that learn­ing how to make it is some­thing I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

This area has a lot of his­tory and cul­ture to of­fer to those willing to lis­ten and learn. Mak­ing our fam­ily’s stuffed ham with my own two hands will be a mile­stone for me, and you can bet I’ll be pass­ing that knowl­edge on to my chil­dren when they are a lit­tle older.

When you cook with your kids, you are show­ing them how to take care of their own fam­ily one day and mod­el­ing the val­ues that they will take to heart.

You can be sure that we will be bond­ing over stuffed ham ev­ery year from now on. And I am al­ready try­ing to fig­ure out which of our fam­ily friends are go­ing to be lucky enough to get the ex­tras from this new en­deavor.

Oys­ter sea­son has be­gun

You know what goes well with stuffed ham? Fried oys­ters, which are an­other great lo­cal dish, will also be on the menu for Christmas din­ner. We’ve been serv­ing oys­ters for Christmas din­ner for many years now, and my hus­band al­ways makes them ex­actly how I like them, fried hard.

The De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources wants Mary­lan­ders to know you can start a sim­i­lar tra­di­tion this win­ter at your house with fresh oys­ters you har­vested your­self right from the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

The recre­ational oys­ter

har­vest sea­son is now un­der­way and Mary­land res­i­dents can har­vest up to one bushel of oys­ters a day each day now through March 31. In case you were won­der­ing, a bushel equals about 100 oys­ters, most cer­tainly enough for a mod­est fam­ily gath­er­ing.

Recre­ational oys­ter­ing doesn’t re­quire a li­cense so long as you plan to eat them your­self and the oys­ters are at least 3 inches from hinge to bill. And Mary­land re­quires oys­ters to be culled on the bar where they are har­vested and all un­der­sized oys­ters and shell ma­te­rial must be re­turned to the bar. Al­low­able meth­ods of har­vest are div­ing, rak­ing or shaft tong­ing.

Oys­ters can only be har vested from ap­proved and open shell­fish ar­eas and can­not be taken within leased aqua­cul­ture, har­vest re­serve ar­eas or sanc­tu­ar­ies.

Nat­u­ral 1 re­joins the ranks

The Mary­land De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sourc- es has just added one more tool for catch­ing poach­ers to their team. Nat­u­ral 1, DNR’s he­li­copter, will be re­join­ing the ranks af­ter a 7-year hia­tus from the de­part­ment’s ros­ter.

The po­lice avi­a­tion unit, which has been in ex­is­tence nearly 70 years, was dis­banded in 2009 and the he­li­copter was trans­ferred to the Har­ford County Sher­iff’s Of­fice where it was painted blue. When it be­came avail­able again, Nat­u­ral Re­sources Sec­re­tary Mark Bel­ton was de­ter­mined to bring it back home.

Now the he­li­copter has been re­stored to its orig­i­nal black-and-gold lus­ter, and it is al­ready fly­ing mis­sions over the 17,000 miles of wa­ter­ways and al­most a half-mil­lion acres of public lands in Mary­land to en­sure the safety of peo­ple en­joy­ing the out­doors and pro­tect­ing our nat­u­ral re­sources.

One of its orig­i­nal pi­lots manned the con­trols when it re­turned to ser­vice. Since that maiden voy­age, Nat­u­ral 1 has been back on duty and car­ry­ing out oys­ter en­force­ment pa­trols and pro­vid­ing sup­port for miss­ing per­son searches.

Let ev­ery­one be on no­tice, our state’s nat­u­ral re­source law en­force­ment of­fi­cers will be watch­ing from above.

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