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Hamming it up

April 24, 2009 - Jenn Lucas
I received a free ham from my supermarket. It was supposed to be for Easter but I didn’t get around to preparing it until this week and I have to say I was shocked at how well my little piggy turned out.

I’m not a ham fan. It’s always too salty, bland, fatty or sweet for me. I gave up eating ham in high school and, until the last year or so, have avoided it outside of the occasional cold cut. Then I received a free Honey Baked Ham certificate. Those fine people really can prepare one heck of a ham, so I figured it was one thing I would never bother to attempt to make myself — until I earned the free ham from the supermarket. Sure, I could have substituted it for a turkey breast or some frozen lasagna, as the coupon read, but I like the occasional challenge, so I took home my 14-pound, half shank.

At first, I thought one doesn’t need to cook ham. The label said it was partially cooked, so I figured a few hours on the counter top would yield a quick, tasty dinner, such as the case with my favorite spiral brand. After looking at the thing, reconsidered. That, and I always recall my mom spending hours Easter morning working diligently on preparing a ham for our dinner. After unwrapping the slimly hunk of meat, I still wasn’t sure how to attack it.

Before I got to this point, I spent the week polling people on what they like about ham and what I should use to prepare it. I got answers ranging from a brown sugar/ginger snap glaze to mustard and orange juice. Some said cook it fast and quick, others low and slow. Since no two people gave me the same answer, I figured ham is subjective and thought about what I would want a ham to taste like. I didn’t want it too sweet, salty or clovey.

First, I recalled a cooking show I had seen that told me to use a small knife to cut a diamond shape in the ham to help the fat render out and the flavor make its way in. I also remembered growing up and liking how cloves made the house smell, so I pierced the way-too-thick layer of fat surrounding what I figured was actual ham meat and used about 20 cloves. I put my roast in covered at 300 degrees and hoped, indeed, the fat would render away. After three hours I pulled out my experiment and it looked even less tasty than when it went in — and now it was swimming in about 5 inches of melted fat. I took my ham out of the glass pan I had been using and placed it a larger, metal pan and discarded all that melted fat. I began to use a filet knife to cut away the sections of non-melted fat still on the ham that contracted nicely thanks to my diamond cut. I successfully cut away a big bowlful of fat and now I needed a glaze, so I made one up. The recipe is below.

After applying my glaze and bumping the heat up to 350 degrees for another hour, I had something that not only resembled a ham but one worthy to be proudly placed on a high-end buffet on a cruse ship.

But how would it taste?

Well coming from someone who, up until last week, would snub her nose at the back part of a pig, I can’t get enough. I found myself seeking into the kitchen to get a quick fix. I guess I’m now a ham convert.

So go on, try something new. You may just end up surprising yourself.

Ham Glaze

Since hams vary so much in size, you’ll need to be subjective enough to tailor this recipe to the ham you are cooking.

Equal parts yellow and spicy brown and honey mustards (About a cup total for a 14- pound ham)

½ c. dark Karo syrup

¼ c honey

½ c. brown sugar

Fresh cracked pepper

Mix the mustards, Karo and honey in a bowl. Use a pastry brush to apply evenly over ham. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over ham, but don’t go overboard. Finish with a generous application of black pepper. Cook ham for at least an hour at 350 degrees until a nice color is formed.


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