With Easter fast approaching, many of us are planning the big spread. A couple of blogs back I spoke about my love affair with lamb. That’s always been the holiday staple in my home this time of year. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t extol the virtues of the ever popular ham. It also makes an appearance on so many an Easter dining table. In fact, it almost always seems to be present at any festive holiday meal in America. Probably because it’s easy to prepare and it just tastes so good!
When I discuss ham with people my age (over 30 is all I’m admitting to) almost everyone has a similar early experience. Many of us were served the ones that come from those oversized tin cans. Opening them was a perilous job which my Mom would only entrust to my Dad. I believe we called them Polish hams in our home. I don’t know that it really made sense to do so. I do know that they were usually donned with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries before being popped in the oven to warm through. They were tasty, especially in the following day’s lunch boxes – nestled between two slices of bread with copious amounts of mustard, of course.
The canned variety doesn’t find its way to my table anymore. I, as most of my fellow foodies, have graduated to more lofty ham aspirations. There are all sorts of varieties from which to choose – boneless, bone-in…smoked, sugar-cured…whole, butt, shank, spiral. You name it, it’s out there and pre-cooked or cured for your convenience. My personal favorites are the smoky varieties. (Smithfield, yum!) Bone-in, of course. I mean, who doesn’t look forward to pea soup simmered with a ham bone? The bone is a must for this home chef.
What’s interesting to me is that although in its purest form ham is just a cured roast, there are so many delectable ways to enhance it. I like my ham studded with cloves. Call me a purist, but it just works. And I prefer it glazed with a sweet concoction. A nice counterpart to the saltiness of the meat. (Try Phyllis’ recipe below. It’s a winner.)
I don’t stop there, though. Fruit and ham go together like love and marriage. (Come on, you know it’s true!) And although pineapple and ham make a heavenly pair, I will often complement mine with peaches sautéed in butter and kissed with a bit of rum. Over the top for you? Well, any fruit compote will do, really. I would stay away from pears and apples for Easter, though. Too autumnal.
Now, I must admit that my favorite uses for ham fall in the leftovers department. I adore it fried up with eggs the following morning. Divine. Sliced and pressed in a panini with brie for lunch. Irresistible. Cubed in dinner time soups, stews and salads. Doesn’t get any better. Yes, I can eat ham all day long. My mouth may be dry at midnight, but I’m fully sated.
You know, I’ve just decided to serve ham along with the leg of lamb at my Easter celebration. I’m hoping that all of the lamb goes, and there’s plenty of ham left over. It’ll be a salty Monday…and I’m going to enjoy every bit of it.
Baked Ham with Maple and Mustard Glaze
A succulent glazed ham is an easy and classic choice for a holiday celebration. And since Easter is right around the corner, why not plan on picking up a half pre-cooked ham, either shank or butt end if you will be serving 12 or fewer people. For a larger number of people, a whole ham would be your best choice. Providing you’re not going for a smoked country ham, a ready-to-eat ham is an economical choice as it often goes on sale just before Easter. Even so, look for the best quality. “In natural juices” on the label will assure a better flavor than “with water added”.
Now, which to buy, the butt end or the shank end? The butt end will provide more meat, although it will be more difficult to slice because of the shape of the bone.
½ ready-to-eat, cooked ham, bone-in, uncut (not spiral cut), shank or butt end, 8-11 lbs.
About 50 cloves
½ cup champagne vinegar
¾ cup maple syrup
½ cup country-style Dijon mustard
2 T apricot jam
Pinch of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Remove the ham from the refrigerator still in its wrapping a couple of hours before you’re planning to cook so as to bring it close to room temperature.
2. Make a diamond pattern on the ham by cutting straight lines into the fat with a sharp knife about ½ inch deep parallel to each other. Score another set of lines at a 45 degree angle to the first to create a diamond pattern. The classic appearance is achieved by inserting a clove at each intersection.
3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place ham, fat side up in a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil. Cook ham in oven for one hour.
4. While ham is cooking, make glaze. In a small saucepan, heat vinegar over medium heat until reduced to 2 T.
5. Add maple syrup, mustard, jam and salt. Cook, whisking, until well combined, about 2 minutes. Season with pepper to taste and set aside.
6. Remove ham from oven and brush top and sides generously with one third of the glaze.
7. Return to oven. Remember that the ham is already cooked so you don’t have to cook to an internal temperature of 140 degrees as is often instructed. The ham will need about another half hour of cooking to achieve an inner temperature between 110 and 120 degrees. It will be very warm, if not hot, and is more likely to retain its moisture.
8. Baste every ten minutes with the glaze. Don’t baste ham with its own juices as the glaze might wash off.
9. Take the ham out of the oven, cover with aluminum foil and let rest 15 minutes before serving.
Photographer Bill Brady
Written by Victor Ribaudo
Recipe Provided by Phyllis Kirigin, aka sweetpaprika
Blog syndicated at the datingsymbol.com