I was born in Marion Iowa and adopted, along with two brothers and two sisters, into a largely suburban household. One of my special memories was loading into the station wagon after church and picking up grandma Kindig for a drive to the Amana Colonies, to Bill Zuber's restaurant.
My family, including us children, were very proud of how well behaved we were on these outings in particular. Families with five or six kids can be chaotic, to say the least. But our family were often complimented in Bill Zubers.
A family dining table at Zuber's on a Sunday morning was splendid. Billed as German Style family cooking, I remember the fried chicken, sweet corn, cottage cheese, and something quite different. Pickled Ham on the plate, right next to cottage cheese, was an experience I carried with me into adulthood. It was not until a few years ago that I looked up a recipe for pickled ham, and set about making some for friends and family. But mostly, I make it for myself.
There are several variations, and as I do, I studied all of them and found my own path. Pickled ham does not last very long so it should be prepared a day before and eaten at the table with friends. It will keep for a week or two, but then starts to loose the contrast between the sweetness of the ham and the sharp flavors of the onion and vinegar. Since I am not serving 50 people, I make small batches as needed.
Bring your cup of water to a gentle boil in small pot with the pickling spice and cook for ten minutes or so till the water is brown in color. Drop in your sliced onions, add the vinegar, and turn off the heat. The idea here is to soften the onions slightly.
Let the liquid cool down to room temperature. I usually run some cool water into the sink and set the pot in there. Once cooled, drain and stir in the ham. Snatch a few assorted spice corns and toss them in just for show.
Spoon your product into a jar and refrigerate overnight.
Note: Some of these recipes have you drop the ham into the hot liquid and blanch briefly. I had the benefit of tasting this in its native environment, and I say do not do that. Cool the Liquid and add the ham. The ham keeps its sweetness and fresh pink color, and this adds to the joy of eating it.