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Easter Dinner: Bourbon Glazed Ham

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How did serving ham for Easter become a custom? Mediterranean celebrations, including the Jewish Passover, traditionally call for lamb at spring feasts. However, in northern Europe, pigs were the primary protein and ham was often served instead for special meals. Pigs were slaughtered in the fall and the meat was salted, smoked and cured over the winter. The resulting hams were ready to eat in the spring. Salting and smoking hams were a means to preserve meat in the days before refrigeration. 

Ham 101

Fresh Ham

The word ham itself refers to the back leg of a pig. Hams can be fresh, cured, or cured and smoked. Fresh ham is essentially a pork roast on the bone. It’s simply the upper hind leg of a pig, not processed, cured, or smoked. In the meat market fresh hams looks like (and is) raw pork. Cooked fresh ham tastes like a really moist pork loin.

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Cured hams

Cured hams are sometimes labeled “fully cooked,” “ready-to-eat,” or “heat-and-serve.” Also known as “city ham,” these hams are wet-cured, meaning that they are submerged in or injected with brine, then smoked and sold fully cooked for you to glaze and warm at home. They may be eaten as is, but are more often heated to an internal temperature of 140°F for fuller flavor. These are the spiral-sliced varieties that grace holiday tables. Wet-cured ham is deep rosy, pink in color with a moist, slightly chewy texture.

A whole cured ham is the entire back leg of a hog and weighs about 20 pounds. You’ll often see these hams in the meat department around the holidays. Half hams are also available and come as butt end and shank end. The butt end comes from the upper thigh and has a rounded end, whereas the shank end comes from the lower portion of the leg and has a pointed or tapered end. Look for bone-in cured hams over boneless cured hams for more flavor (and a bone for the soup pot).

Bourbon Glazed Ham on www.virginiawillis.com

 

Country Ham

Country Ham is salted and smoked ham. There are uncooked and cooked country hams. Uncooked country hams are salted, smoked, and hung to cure. Nowadays, more and more folks are enjoying thinly sliced handcrafted uncooked country ham much in the same way as Italian prosciutto or Spanish Serrano. Cooked country hams have been salted, smoked, hung to cure – then scrubbed, soaked, and boiled to rehydrate the meat. One of my favorite country hams is made by “Nancy the Ham Lady.” She was one of the featured stories in my most recent cookbook, Secrets of the Southern Table.

Easter Bourbon Glazed Ham on www.virginiawillis.com

Happy Spring!

I hope you enjoy this recipe for Bourbon Baked Ham. Happy Easter to those who celebrate. We’re having Passover tonight (no ham!) and I’ll celebrate Easter this Sunday. Best wishes to you and your family.

Bon Appétit Y’all! 

Virginia Willis

PS — need a Gluten Free recipe for your weekend? Check out this Chocolate Nut Cake!

Bourbon Glazed Ham on www.virginiawillis.com

Bourbon Baked Ham

Servings: 12
Author: Virginia Willis

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil plus more for the pan
  • Half of a semi-boneless ready-to-eat ham (5 to 6 pounds), preferably shank end (see below)
  • 1 cup honey preferably tupelo, orange blossom, or sweet clover
  • 1/2 cup sorghum cane syrup, or molasses
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush a large roasting pan with some of the oil.
  • To prepare the ham, remove the skin and fat. Using a sharp knife make 1/4-inch-deep cuts in the meat in a diamond pattern. Place the ham in the prepared roasting pan. Meanwhile, to make the glaze, heat the honey, sorghum, bourbon, orange juice, and mustard in a saucepan over medium heat until melted and combined.
  • Pour over the prepared ham the warm bourbon glaze. Transfer to the oven and cook, basting every 30 minutes or so with the glaze on the bottom of the pan, for 2 to 21/2 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers 140°F. If the ham starts to overbrown, loosely tent with aluminum foil to prevent it from burning.
  • Remove from the oven to a rack. Tent the ham loosely with aluminum foil and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.
  • Transfer to a cutting board, carve, and serve.

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all photos by Virginia Willis except for the pigs. The pig photo is by the lovely and talented Angie Mosier.

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Copyright © 2019 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

 

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. (That means I make a commission if you use my affiliate link to buy the product.)

Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis has made chocolate chip cookies with Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson, foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and beguiled celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Bill Clinton, and Julie Chrisley with her cooking -- but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Virginia is a chef instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen and author of Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South, Lighten Up, Y’all, Bon Appétit, Y’all, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, Okra, and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome received a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence. She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network's Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of "Seven Food Writers You Need to Know." Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude and approachable spirit. Learn more about Virginia and follow her traveling exploits at www.virginiawillis.com.

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