Though it may not be quite as cemented into a role as Turkey is for Thanksgiving, Ham has no doubt found its way as the often-starring role to Christmas get-togethers (and other holidays and celebrations I’m sure). This is especially true with my family, who consume it alongside large bowls of chips and dip, bacon-wrapped weenies, cheesy potatoes, and all manner of our favorite comfort foods.
Despite such a large nationwide popularity, however, it saddens me to think that this oh-so-loved cut of pork is often not truly prepared “properly” (technically all you need to do is heat it up, but for a good ham there’s more). It’s true, this may only be from my experience of those I know, but still I just can’t help thinking that a large proportion of Hams during the Holidays just aren’t getting the treatment they deserve: a nice, thick, shiny coat of Glaze.
Sure, we open up that packet of “Honey Flavored Glaze” they give with every giant mass-produced chunk of the meat and pour it on, but that’s not a real glaze. It’s thin, barely flavored, only serving to add some sweetness with the barest perceptible color/coat of itself, which most likely isn’t even being applied properly. A real Glaze, a true Glaze, is Seen and Smelled and Identified the moment that ham comes out of the oven; it’s that picture-perfect look we see in all those magazines.
And it’s not hard to do, really. And I’m not blaming people if they haven’t happened to apply something like this to their Hams for all these years; sometimes it’s just not one of those things we think about. Ham’s already delicious enough baked as is, and we have all this other food to prepare and enjoy, the focus on this part simply might slip us by. But with more Culinary Shows getting TV spotlight and viewer attentions in these days, the argument and spotlight on Glazed Hams during the holidays is as high as it’s ever been. It deserves our attention, our Ham deserves to be Beautiful and Delicious this year!
There are two different glaze recipes that I’d like to highlight, depending on the type of Ham one has purchased this year. If doing a whole, uncut slab of meat, bone in or non (hopefully WITH a bone, just gets that extra flavor), then we stick with a nice, thick, rich, concentrated glaze like this:
½ – 2/3 cup l. brown/demerara sugar
¼-1/3 cup honey
1 ½ tsp ground Pumpkin Spice
1 Tb English Mustard
We start not with the glaze but the ham itself, for even with a delicious coating we still need to cook it properly if wanting the full deliciousness this main course can offer. Ideally, this should be soaked overnight in cold water, which will then be changed at least once throughout. I’m not sure what this exactly accomplishes other than washing off any slime and briny chemicals on the outside, but there’s nothing wrong with a long bath for things like these.
Pat dry the next day and bake, with cold water in pan and a foil cover, at 315F for a long period of time; about 20 minutes per pound of pork (ours took 5 hours), plus an extra 20 after that. This will heat it up in a nice, slow, gentle fashion; there are a few recipes that may just leave this for an hour at 350 or something, but even if it’s reheating I say do it proper. Also, as it’s best to have it elevated from the pan bottom during this, one can have the ham sitting on a rack or, better yet, a traditional bed of veggies and herbs to aromatize the meat from beneath (or to soak the veggies in delicious cooked ham juice and serve on the side afterwards).
While this is going you can mix up the Glaze (just combine everything but the cloves); if you don’t have the Pumpkin Spice, or like me just don’t wanna use it, simply add a bit each of Allspice, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Ground Clove (the last being most important here). You should end up with something that’s just thick and dense.
Take the ham from the oven, turning it up to 350F. As it heats, you’ll prepare your Ham: first, if it has any Skin, peel it off. This should come out nice and easy, though you may need to slice off with a sharp knife every now and then. Don’t feel bad about taking all that off, you can always chop it up and drop it in a friar or bake in the oven to make little hammy skin crisps, yum.
There’s most likely a pretty good sized layer of fat on part of it (it may not look thick, but trust me it is); try to shave some of this off before moving to the next step. Finally, give a nice little scoring, criss cross slices along the whole visible showing of ham; only about ½” deep at its deepest point, maybe up to 1” or more if there’s a lot of fat. We don’t actually want to cut the meat very much here, just giving the glaze grooves to set into (and a nice little pattern for presentation).
Finally, we can apply our glaze onto this hulking beast, spreading its sugary goodness down in those cracks and over the side like a coat of paint. I know it might not seem as if this will be easy to coat on, but it actually melts and spreads well once in contact with the hot surface. Add a little water to your pan, and pop this back into the now 350F oven for another 20 minutes (or more depending). During this time the glaze will darken, start to brown, create this beautiful shine and, of course, start fumigating your oven (and kitchen if you open the oven door often) with that enticingly haunting aroma of sweetness, spices, and salty pig.
Take out when done, carve as desired, and enjoy your meal.
Now, if for chance you’ve already bought a Spiral Cut Ham, or simply prefer using them for the Holiday get-togethers, we’ll need a different glaze than before. The thick, gloppy kind just used won’t really excel on these thin yet deep layers. For this, we can turn to a recipe I saw Ina Garten make just a few days ago on TV, a really nice wet mixture that gets in deep and creates this pretty little crust on the outside (and some in I’m sure).
6 garlic cloves
8 ½ oz marmalade
½ cup Dijon
1 cup Brown sugar
1 orange, zested
¼ cup orange juice
Pulse all the glaze ingredients in a food processor (or just try to get the garlic as finely chopped as possible). Treat Ham the exact same way all the way through the first baking process (well, you might not want to soak it, considering all the slices the water can now get into) and pour this baby all over, making sure it’s able to get nice and into some of those crevaces. Bake at 350 until the glaze is done (originaly recipe just baked the whole thing, with glaze, start to finish for 1 hour. Since we’re taking the “heating up” elements out of play, it shouldn’t need THAT long, but I’m not sure) and serve as desired.
Blasphemous as it may now sound, Leftovers can still remain an “issue” even after all this work on the product. But since that’s the case, and we make some of the best meals from these holiday scavengings, might as well use it right?
Along with the Ham, quite often is it that we have some form of Mashed Potatoes (in my family’s case, those of the “Cheesy” variety) , and I’m sure my family’s not alone in this. With these two at our disposal, it seems only natural to make some Croquettes as a following day’s snack.
Simple to put together too, just mix your leftover ham and potatoes to what proportion is desired. Pile this into a container and let sit in the fridge for a while to firm up (if they haven’t done so on their own already).
Take out and carefully shape, traditionally into elongated, almost thumb-shaped forms (or a sphere, sphere’s are nice). Put this through the Standard Breading Procedure (flour, eggwash, breadcrumbs, SEASONED!) and Fry, deep or shallow, at about 350F until crispy all around.
Serve with Ketchup or some form of Aioli, a sprinkling of Paprika, or whatever else one fancies that day. Rejoice in the results that befall of a Glazed ham, whether it be in form of Sandwich, Fried Potato or Soup Topper! But above all, have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, may time spent with family be the best it can be! (and Good Eating of course)