• Stir It Up: Go ahead, ham it up at Easter
     | March 22,2013
    Luca Trovato Photo

    Glazed ham makes a succulent centerpiece for Easter dinner. The photo and recipe are from “The Great Meat Cookbook” by Bruce Aidells.

    “Someone defined eternity as a ham and two people,” Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker wrote in the old “Joy of Cooking.” That’s bad news if you are one of the two people, good news if you are cooking for a crowd at Easter.

    Buying a ham involves many choices. The most important tip comes from Bruce Aidells, a nationally known authority on meat. Look for meat labeled simply “ham” (no added water) or “ham with natural juices” (less than 10 percent added water), Aidells says. These superior hams are worth the extra money. Remember that when buying “ham, water added” or a “ham and water product” (up to 50 percent water), you are paying for water and getting spongy, inferior meat.

    Even though most hams are already fully cooked, you still want to cook them. Baking not only warms the ham but also removes excess moisture, concentrates flavor, improves texture and allows you to add a glaze and sauce, Aidells notes.

    Because bones add flavor and conduct heat more evenly, I prefer bone-in hams, but Aidells’ recipe works for any type or size.

    Baked Ham With Glaze and Sauce

    Yield: Half ham serves 10 to 12; whole ham serves 15 to 20

    1 fully cooked bone-in or boneless half or full ham, any size

    Glaze (double the recipe for a whole ham):

    3 cups apple cider or apple juice

    Water as needed

    ½ cup pecans

    1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

    2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses

    1½ tablespoons dry mustard

    ¼ cup bourbon

    Thickening (optional):

    1 tablespoon cornstarch

    ¼ cup water

    Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

    Trim any skin from the ham, and trim external fat to a thickness of about ¼ inch. Place fat-side-up on a work surface and score the fat to a depth of about ¼ inch in a 2-inch diamond pattern.

    Place ham in a roasting pan. Insert a cable-type, continuous-read thermometer (if you have one) in the center of the ham and set it for 115 degrees. Add 2 cups of cider to the pan, plus water as needed, so at least ¼ inch of liquid covers the bottom of the pan. Place ham in the oven. If you have only an instant-read thermometer, use 10 minutes per pound as a rough estimate of when to begin checking the internal temperature. As ham bakes, continue to add water so the bottom of the pan is always covered to a depth of at least ¼ inch.

    Meanwhile, make the glaze: Heat a skillet over medium. Add pecans and toast, shaking the skillet frequently, until pecans begin to color and give off a nutty aroma, about 5 minutes. Remove, let cool and coarsely chop. Place nuts in a small bowl and stir in brown sugar, 1 tablespoon molasses, mustard and 2 tablespoons bourbon. Set aside.

    When the internal temperature of the ham reaches 115 degrees, remove it from the oven and increase heat to 425 degrees. Add more water to the pan, making sure there is now about ½ inch covering the bottom. Smear glaze generously over the top of the ham. You won’t use it all; save the rest for the sauce. Return ham to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the glaze bubbles and begins to darken and the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees.

    Remove ham from oven, transfer to a carving board and let rest, loosely covered with aluminum foil. It will continue to cook, and the temperature will reach the recommended 140 to 145 degrees in 20 to 40 minutes.

    Meanwhile, make the sauce. Pour pan juices into a heavy 2-quart saucepan and spoon off all grease. In a small saucepan, combine remaining 1 cup apple cider and remaining 2 tablespoons bourbon. Bring to a boil and cook to reduce by half, about 10 minutes. Pour this mixture into the saucepan with the pan juices and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon molasses, along with any remaining glaze. Bring to a boil and cook 5 to 10 minutes to concentrate flavors. For an optional thicker sauce, combine cornstarch and water and whisk into the sauce about 30 seconds, until it reaches the consistency of maple syrup.

    Carve ham and arrange the slices on a platter. Pour sauce into a small serving bowl or gravy boat and serve.

    Excerpted from “The Great Meat Cookbook” (2012) by Bruce Aidells. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; all rights reserved.

    Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.

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