Ham for the Holidays
BY TOM YATES
There were two things you count on come Christmas growing up. Magnolia leaves would adorn our farmhouse and cured country ham would take center stage.
The week before Christmas was ham-tending time. With our ham shed long gone, our cured Christmas hams were handpicked and procured weeks in advance from various local folks who took the time to do such things. After the hams were soaked in several changes of water for days, simmered on a low flame for hours, wrapped in blankets to steam and cool down, the humble whole country hams were ready for their closeup. Year after year, when the Christmas ham hit the table served on my mother’s fine bone china under the dim glow and flickering whisper of tree lights, I knew Christmas had arrived. In my book, there was no need for anything else. It was all about the ham.
Nowadays, I go back and forth with various methods for preparing Christmas ham. While old school country ham takes my heart home for the holidays, I’m always game for a sticky glazed smoked ham. It’s about the Christmas spirit. As long as there’s ham.
Pomegranate Citrus Glazed Bone-In Smoked Ham.
First of all, spiral cut hams are fabulous. While they’re incredibly easy to prepare and serve, I like to have slicing options. There will always be leftovers. Always. Aside from using the bone for stock, soup beans, or greens, ham leftovers can run the gamut. It’s always good to have a variety of cuts to play with. Thick cut, thin cut. diced, torn, or shredded, whole half hams deliver the option.
Ham it up.
I rarely, if ever, trim extra fat off of ham. Fat is flavor. Fat is fabulous. Working with a 10 pound shank portion of a bone-in smoked half ham, I scored the outer surface of the ham 1/4″ deep in a 1″ diagonal pattern.
After filling a large roasting pan with 1 cup water, 1/2 cup white wine, 3 bay leaves, 2 cloves whole peeled garlic cloves, fresh thyme sprigs, and a few cloves, I placed the ham cut side down into the roasting pan, covered the ham with aluminum foil, and slid it into a preheated 325 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours, about 16 minutes per pound.
Pomegranate brings a perky tartness to the party that somehow tempers the typical cloyingly sweet temperament of a traditional ham glaze.
After reducing 2 cups pomegranate juice by half, I added 1 cup fresh squeezed mandarin orange juice, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup light brown sugar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup Olberholzter’s Sorghum, 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, salt, and black pepper. I brought the glaze to a boil, reduced it to simmer, and let it bubble away until it had the consistency of…well..glaze before pulling it from the heat and setting it aside.
Lipstick on a pig.
When the internal temp of the ham hit 145 degrees, I pulled it from the oven, removed the aluminum foil, brushed the ham with the pomegranate glaze, cranked the oven to 425, and slid the ham back into the oven. Keeping a close eye, I brushed the ham with additional glaze every 15 minutes until it caramelized and lacquered up.
After pulling the ham from the oven to rest for 20 minutes, I nestled it onto a bed of fresh magnolia with sliced pomegranate, lemons, mandarin oranges, and persimmons.
Ham for the holidays.
This article also appears on page 16 of the December 2021 print edition of Ace.
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