A Not-Very-Good Attempt at Seitan Ham

I know I haven’t been posting much and the reason is I haven’t been feeling very creative. Between worrying about the declining health of my two aging cats, preparing for my trip to Australia next month (and the nerve-wracking coincidence of these situations), and various other issues, I’ve been resorting to time-honored recipes I’ve already featured here or working directly from cookbooks. When Wegmans had 2-pound bags of green beans on sale this week, I thought of the time I made Smoked Seitan Butt and Green Beans, which was surprisingly good but in which I had wished for more green beans. So tonight, in my newly reorganized kitchen, I decided it was time to revisit the making of ham- (or pork-) flavored seitan. I had originally tried a Simply Heavenly pork recipe when I made Barbecued UnPork Chops, which was good, but didn’t taste anything like I remember ham tasting like.

I based the recipe on Bryanna Clark Grogan’s soy and seitan ham recipe (which I’ve made before and which is good, but doesn’t taste much like ham to me) and the Christmas seitan-ham on Vegan Fitness, as well as getting the Szechuan peppercorn idea from this recipe. It didn’t turn out all that well, so I DON’T suggest you follow this recipe. Basically I’m putting it up because 1) I took all the pictures and wrote the recipe up anyway (before tasting it) and 2) to remind me what not to do next time!

Seitan “Ham”

2 cups vital wheat gluten
2/3 cup soy flour
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, crushed
scant 1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
12 ounces firm tofu
11 ounces tomato juice
1 Tbsp beet powder

For the broth:
2 quarts water
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tsp liquid smoke

Combine the dry ingredients, except the beet powder, in a large bowl …

… and whisk together. Combine the remaining ingredients in a blender.

Blend until smooth.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry.

Mix until they come together, then knead for a few minutes until fully combined.

Shape into a log and place on a large piece of cheesecloth.

Roll up and tie the ends of the cheesecloth off, like a Tootsie Roll.

Put the broth ingredients in a pressure cooker or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Add the seitan log.

Cook under pressure for 45 minutes, or without pressure for two hours. Remove from the broth …

… and remove from the cheesecloth. This was the first indicator something had gone awry. The seitan was no longer pink! (The lighting is bad in this picture; it was a tan color; normal seitan color, actually.)

Although upon slicing, the center was slightly pinkish, which was a sort of gross likeness to meat that I could do without. You can’t really see that here either, but trust me, it was weird.

I tasted a bit of it and was very surprised to find that it had absolutely no taste! I can’t figure it out! With all of those ingredients, you’d think it would taste like something! Possibly something bad, but I expected a flavor! I decided to fry slices up in hopes that would add some flavor. (You can sort of see the pink middles here if you look.)

This did help somewhat, although not enough that I’d recommend using this recipe. I’ll work on improving it. Now it feels like a quest. The quest for vegan ham.

I made the broth for the smoked seitan butt extra smoky to make up for the fact that I couldn’t taste ANY smoke in the seitan. (Note to self: add liquid smoke to grocery list.) Remember I said I had wished for more green beans last time? I think I overdid it! (The seitan, potatoes, onions, and broth are under there somewhere!

In the end it turned out well, though. (This is before it was finished cooking.)

I also mentioned above that my kitchen is reorganized. I gave myself the task this weekend of procuring a bookshelf that would fit in my kitchen, moving my cookbooks in there, moving some other stuff around, and then using the freed-up space in my library bookshelves to shift and fix the order of my other books, which have been piling up and getting out of order.

I used to have a bunch of things on the floor between the kitchen island and the wall: the ice cream maker, yogurt maker, a cake stand, a basket for root vegetables, a stock pot, a tray, and a large container of soybeans. It was a mess. Additionally, I’d been storing one of my woks on one of the two stools that go with the island. I was always hitting my head on the island when leaning down to retrieve something and basically, as I crave order, the whole thing was driving me crazy. So I went to some thrift stores yesterday in search of a bookshelf. I finally came across one that I thought was ugly at first, but found that the color grew on me as I thought about it. (Mark finds it hideous, but I figured I could always paint it.) I moved all of the aforementioned stuff out of the area they were in and placed the shelf in their stead. Then I put all of my cookbooks on it. (I can’t actually acquire any more cookbooks as they fit perfectly!) The stock pot and the wok went on top. Here it is:

I moved the appliances out into a hutch in dining room, where they are much easier to get to and will stay dust-free. Next, I don’t know if you’ve seen it in any of the hundreds of photos I post, but I had about 20 bottles of various oils, vinegars, wines, and other cooking liquids sitting out on one of my counters. In one of our closets I found an unused wire rack on wheels. I loaded it up with all the bottles and wheeled it into the small space between the island and the wall, declaring myself an organizational genius:

Although they are out of sight when not in use, it’s actually now much easier to find what I want. I also had room there for the jars of dried beans that I’d been piling on my baker’s rack. So now the baker’s rack is cleaner too!

But wait, there’s more! I moved the mixie, which had been behind my chopping block and which was therefore a pain in the butt to use (because the chopping block had to be free of any ingredients and then the mixie lifted up onto it) to the empty space created by the moved bottles. I also moved the George Foreman grill, which had been in a very awkward corner. I installed a 6-outlet adapter and now I have a nice, neat “appliance” counter, where everything is easy to use! (The yogurt maker is currently out incubating tempeh, but ordinarily is stored away.)

This made room on my “chopping” counter for my ulu and a “bread station”.

I was damn proud of myself at the end of all of this! The kitchen is MUCH more inviting and easy to use. The only thing left over without a home is the container of soybeans:

Mark suggested some sort of hanging dispenser for them, but I’m still working it out. Considering how small my kitchen is and the enormous number of things I own, I’m shocked that the soybeans are the only thing left over!

I won’t bore you with the details of my library makeover, but suffice it to say that went swimmingly as well.


  1. Deleilan Said,

    January 18, 2009 @ 9:05 pm

    I LOVE your kitchen! Mine is nothing more than a corridor between the living room and bathroom, so storage is very limited. There are so many good ideas in your post that I’ve bookmarked it and will be borrowing some of them… if you don’t mind!

    It’s a shame about the “ham”, all those efforts and ingredients for such a disapointing result. Best of luck in your future attempts!

  2. renae Said,

    January 18, 2009 @ 9:56 pm

    Deleilan, I’ve lived with a few kitchens that were little more than corridors, so I feel your pain. I’ve learned some tricks over the years trying to deal with tiny kitchens, and although this one is currently busting at the seams with all the stuff I’ve acquired, it really is extraordinarily spacious compared to some I’ve had! In one particularly small kitchen (which didn’t have any drawers! ugh!), I hung every item I owned on hooks along the wall underneath the cupboards. When I moved to a kitchen that was bigger but which had no wall space for the hanging of hooks, I found that I missed that aspect a lot – suddenly drawers were a nuisance! So sometimes smaller kitchens can work even better than larger ones. But without a certain number of cupboards, it is really hard to store all your food, tableware, and cooking utensils. I can definitely relate! I’ve sworn off any future living premises with “railroad”-type kitchens, though. They make me claustrophobic!

    As for the ham, I don’t know how it all went so wrong, but I’m happy to report that the dish I used it in turned out really well anyway: Mark and I each had seconds. Fortunately the tasteless seitan absorbed the taste of the broth it was cooked in!

  3. JanScholl Said,

    January 18, 2009 @ 10:58 pm

    I was in the middle of saving to take out 30 year old cabinets when hubby decided to retire instead of go down with the GM Titanic. So who knows. but sometimes a messed up kitchen is more inviting. I gotta tell ya, I am all for faux meats-but I have to draw the line at Babe. Can’t do it. It could taste like peanut butter my favorite food-but it would still look like Farmer Hoggitt’s favorite pig.

  4. jeremy Said,

    January 18, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

    I’d rather hear about the library.

  5. renae Said,

    January 18, 2009 @ 11:41 pm

    JanScholl, there’s something to be said for the “lived in” look! And I’m beginning to think faux Babe is pretty much impossible anyway.

    Jeremy, this IS a food blog, not a book blog! And basically I just moved books around.

  6. Jes Said,

    January 19, 2009 @ 11:44 am

    I love the organization! The robins egg blue bookshelf adds a great splash of color. And I’m super jealous of the counter space….one day 🙂

    Weird about the seitan, though. Flavorless? I’ve yet to find a really hamy recipe (or at least what I remember as ham…which is mostly salty, come to think of it), but the pinky resemblance is startling on this one!

  7. Alexis Said,

    January 19, 2009 @ 3:42 pm

    Well, it *looks* like ham at least!

    Your kitchen is amazing. I’ve been resisting acquiring more gadgets, spices, ingredients, etc. because I don’t have much more space in the cupboards, but your inspires me to be more creative. Maybe if I loved my kitchen more I would get back to spending more time there.

  8. Alexis Said,

    January 19, 2009 @ 3:43 pm

    Oh, and sorry for the double comment, but I meant to say, I’m sending some snuggles for the kitties. They are so beautiful and funny, I hate to think of them not being on top of their game.

  9. Lovliebutterfly Said,

    January 19, 2009 @ 6:34 pm

    Your kitchen rocks! I love your chopping station and the cool little bowls attached to it! I don’t have any space at all in my kitchen. It is just a sink and the cooker/oven next to it. No other space. So I use the window sill to chop and do everything else! You spice and bottle rack is nice too!

    Sorry to hear that the seitan didn’t turn the way you would have wanted it. It does look nice though. Maybe increasing the spices might bring more flavour? Having said that, I’ve never attempted making seitan myself. It is something I have yet to try (when and if I can find some vital wheat gluten over here!!).

    Anyways…I’m gonna read your next post now… the skincare products!

  10. renae Said,

    January 19, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

    I so surprised everyone loves my kitchen so much! I didn’t think it was anything special, although it is a definite improvement over just about every other kitchen I’ve ever had. I do want to spend more time in there since I reorganized it though; it does make a huge difference.

    Alexis, thanks for the thoughts about the cats. They’re both about 16 years old and I’m beginning to have to face the fact that they are not immortal. Right now, they are both still very happy and still themselves,

    Lovliebutterfly, I can’t believe you have to use the window sill for all your food prep! I’ve never had it quite that bad! You should post pictures – I’m somewhat morbidly curious about super-tiny kitchens! And with all the amazing stuff you post in your blog, I’m surprised you’ve never made seitan!

  11. me Said,

    January 24, 2009 @ 12:54 am

    i just made this recipe last night…it was very tasty with a great texture…could use a little bit more spices…you need smoked tofu…and steam it. very edible.

RSS feed for comments on this post

Leave a Comment