While James Michener enlightened thousands of readers to the magic of living in the tidewater through his novel, Chesapeake, he focused on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Lesser known to the outside world, the western shore of Maryland, better known as Southern Maryland, consists of three counties that lie south of Washington, D.C. between the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.
This was the where the first settlers to Maryland first landed on St. Clement’s Island in 1634. Settled by English Roman Catholics seeking a safe place to practice their religion, the colony was the birthplace of religious freedom in North America.
For over 300 years the area economy was dominated by tobacco plantations and watermen who plied the waters of the Potomac and Patuxent rivers and the Chesapeake Bay for oysters and blue crabs.
The bounty of the local waters is what most outsiders recognize as the area’s contribution to the culinary world. Maryland blue crabs (whether steamed or in crab cakes) and the Chesapeake oyster (fried – my favorite, stewed, scalded or raw) are truly delicacies that deserve their standing amongst those who love great food.
But there is another contribution from the region that is less well known – Southern Maryland stuffed ham. This delicacy could easily be called St. Mary’s County stuffed ham, because although it has been adopted in the neighboring counties of Calvert and Charles, all evidence points to it originating in St. Mary’s – specifically on Newton Manor, a plantation owned by the Jesuits, on a peninsula between Breton and St. Clement’s Bay.
Stuffed ham is a sublime mix of a fine corned ham (more on this here) and the greens grown in local gardens.
(to be continued…..)