Virginia Ham and Oysters

Virginia Ham and Oysters

This dish was served all over Virginia as a combination. Oysters traveled very well, especially in cooler months. While Colonial cooks would have used whole oysters, it takes practice and a steady hand to shuck them, so home cooks should buy them ready to cook. Frugal 18th Century cooks would have made this with leftover ham, but this recipe uses a new ham and requires 3 days of advanced preparation so please plan accordingly.


1 Virginia ham

2 shallots, minced

6 tablespoons butter

¼ cup sherry

1 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons flour

1 dozen oysters, shucked, and their liquid

1 bunch of chives, minced

½ teaspoon catsup to last 20 years

1 bunch parsley, minced, for garnish


Remove ham from wrapper and submerge in cold water. Store in the refrigerator and continue to soak in water for 3 days, changing the water at least twice daily. When ready, remove the ham from salty water and boil in fresh water for 1 hour, or until heated through. Carefully remove from water and slice the ham thinly.

Combine 3 tablespoons cold butter with flour to make a beurre meunière.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a skillet. Add the minced shallots and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with sherry. Add cream and season with salt and pepper. Add beurre meunière and whisk to combine. Finish with catsup to last 20 years.

Pour the oysters and their liquid into the cream sauce and let simmer over low heat until the oysters have curled and are still soft. Do not over cook or the oysters will become hard and rubbery.

Chop the chives and add to the simmering sauce. Keep warm but do not continue to cook the oysters. Arrange the ham on a large platter and pour the oysters and cream sauce over the ham. Garnish with parsley.