Hamming it up

Cynthia
Cynthia Stone
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The first excuse to polish up the good silverware is just around the corner.

I consider lamb or turkey or roast beef, but ham always seems to make it to my table in the end, partly because it’s followed by a big pot of pea soup, but mostly because there are a million ways to turn an economical hunk of meat into a feast for many happy diners.

Boiled Ham with Spicy Black Currant Sauce

No ham escaped the stovetop when I was growing up — it simply had to be boiled first, no matter what its ultimate end. I’m always of two minds when it comes to this method, however. It does away with some salt and some flavour, but you end up with a juicy piece of meat and perfect soup-making pot liquor.

It also has no competing flavours in a glaze so you can serve it with any sauce you like — please consider my delicious make-ahead option.

This might seem a bit obvious but the key ingredient in this recipe is the ham. Don’t buy one of those formed or pre-sliced ones — stick to a half or whole picnic ham, bone-in and fat cap on. The half-ham is much easier to deal with and a better value overall, because you can select the biggest, roundest one in the case and you get to see how much fat is hiding in the middle.

Of course you can serve the ham, thickly sliced and steaming hot, or chilled with potato salad, with any sauce you like, but this one is especially tangy, delicious and perfect. Substitute red currant jelly or even apple jelly if you like.

1 bone-in picnic ham, 4 to 5 kg

2 each medium carrots and onions, quartered

2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, smashed but left whole

1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, stems and leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme

4 fresh or 6 dried bay leaves

Sauce:

1 tbsp. minced or grated fresh gingerroot

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tbsp. butter or margarine

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. each ground cloves, cinnamon and allspice

1 small jar black currant jelly (about 1 cup)

1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

3 tbsp. cider vinegar

Remove the ham from its plastic or net cover and rinse well in cold running water. Put it in a large pot and cover in cold water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Remove ham and discard cooking water. Return ham to pot along with carrots, onions, celery, garlic, parsley, thyme and bay leaves.

Cover generously in cold water and bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat and simmer another 2-1/2 to three hours, until the internal temperature reaches 160 F. There were no meat thermometers around years ago and we tested the ham by poking a long, thin-bladed knife right to the bone then pressing it against our lips. If it was so hot we couldn’t keep it there, it was done. Not very scientific, but it worked.

Remove the ham, cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Trim away the heavy brown fat cap and scrape off the white fat underneath. Remove the biggest portion of the meat from one side of the bone — it will be easier to carve — and slice thickly.

Reserve the bone, meat trimmings and pot liquor for the best pea soup you’ll ever taste.

For the sauce, fry ginger and garlic in butter about a minute, until fragrant. Stir in red pepper flakes, cloves, cinnamon and allspice and cook together another minute or two. Add jelly, sugar, mustard and vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened and syrupy. Serve hot or cold with sliced ham. If you prefer a perfectly smooth sauce, puree it in a food processor and strain.

Orange-Pineapple Honey-Glazed Baked Ham

This recipe lends itself to one of those spiral-sliced pre-cooked hams if you’re a bit intimidated by that big old picnic in the previous recipe. In fact, this will work on any ham you care to buy, but the flavour will be best if you start with a bone-in shoulder. If you do start with a pre-cooked ham, reduce the total baking time to about 1 hour, just until it is hot through the middle.

1 bone-in picnic ham, 4 to 5 kg

2 cups water

Glaze:

1 cup orange marmalade

1 cup honey

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 clove garlic, minced

1 orange, finely grated zest and juice

1/2 cup pineapple juice

Remove the ham from its plastic or net cover and rinse well in cold running water. Place it, brown fat cap up, in a large foil-lined roaster — once the glaze gets baked on you’ll be glad you used the foil. Pour in the water and cover. Bake at 350  F for two hours. Remove cover and discard juices in the roaster. Pull off the cap and scrape away most of the fat underneath, leaving a thin layer on top of the ham.

Stir together glaze ingredients until well combined and pour half over the ham in the roaster. Reduce heat to 325 F and bake uncovered for another hour, basting a couple of times with the glaze in the roaster. When internal temperature reaches 160 F, remove ham and cover; rest 30 minutes.

Add remaining glaze to roaster and bring to a boil on top of the stove.

Simmer together about five minutes then strain into a sauce dish; serve with sliced ham. If there was a lot of fat on and in the ham, allow sauce to sit for 10 minutes and skim off excess fat.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

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