I love making things that are so ordinary that they seem extraordinary. Like crackers. Even bread now days seems like an extraordinary thing to make. It’s a bit crazy when you think about it really.
When I first moved to the South, we lived for a couple of years in Tennessee. I was in tears for the first couple of months when we moved there. I had moved from a house and a neighborhood that I loved and felt like I had been plopped down on another planet. Everything seemed different. People told me that I talked funny. I found their Southern accents so strong that I had to watch their lips move when they spoke to help me understand what was being said. And then there was the grocery store. I couldn’t find the ingredients that I took for granted in the stores back home. And then on one especially home sick day, I saw a table in the aisle of the meat department piled high with unrefrigerated meat. (To be fair the meat was vacuumed sealed but it still creeped me out.) It was Country Ham. By itself, Country Ham is too salty for me. But, baked into these delightful crackers, it’s the perfect ingredient. If you don’t have Country Ham, finely crumbled bacon or diced panchetta would work here too but if you can get the Country Ham, get the Country Ham.
Here is the recipe:
Savory Cheddar Crackers with Country Ham
1 cup all purpose flour
4 oz. (1 1/2 cups) extra sharp Cheddar cheese ( I used 5 year aged Cheddar. The class I took used an 8 year aged Cheddar. Incredible!)
1 1/2 oz. Country Ham, diced (I pulsed mine in the food processor till it was nice and fine.)
3/4 stick (6 Tbsp.) butter, cut into cubes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp. milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse flour, cheese, ham, butter, salt, paprika, and cayenne pepper in a food processor until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
I really think that a food processor is the best way to go with this recipe. It will get your Country Ham nice and fine and it brings your dough together nice and quick. I wouldn’t recommend doubling the recipe. Your food processor bowl probably isn’t big enough for two. I made a second batch of dough right after the first and wrapped it in plastic wrap and kept it in the refrigerator till I was ready to bake it off.
Add milk and pulse until the dough forms a ball. Roll out on a lightly floured surface into 12 x 10 inch rectangle. Cut the dough into desired shapes. I used a pasta cutting wheel to get the pretty fluted edges.
Transfer to 2 parchment lined baking sheets, I used a silicone not stick baking sheet. Arrange the crackers about 1/4 inch apart. Bake, turning the pans halfway through baking until pale golden about 15 to 18 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Cool completely on the baking sheets on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes.
Makes about 30 crackers. Store in an air tight container.
These are to be nibbled and savored. And when you nibble and savor them with a glass of wine… I promise they will make you happy. I first had them at a cooking class that I took last Fall at Southern Season in Chapel Hill. It just took me a few months to get around to making them. I’ve wasted so much time.