WASHINGTON: Easter chefs have some choices to make when it comes to their Easter dinner ham. Understanding the difference between bone-in whole and boneless ham, spiral and carving hams will help you make the right choice. Let us look at what ham is, how to buy it, cook it and serve it. We also share some great glaze recipes.
What is Ham?
Ham is the delicious and fatty part of the butt and the shank of the pig cured to draw excess moisture out and to help preserve the meat. Before there was refrigeration people would cure meat, particularly a ham leg, a long process that would take all winter. Begun in late fall, the cured meat would be ready in time for Easter.
All hams found in the grocery stores have been cured. Shoppers have a choice between a whole ham shank (bone-in) or spiral sliced ham, both featuring a center bone. There is also the boneless pressed ham and gaining popularity the heart-shaped boneless applewood smoked carving hams
These are thinner, usually about five inches thick at the center, flat cuts with a thicker crust. These hams are the outside cut of the more traditional ham, featuring more meat from the butt portion.
This ham is far less fatty and the cut on the bias a denser, darker pink cut. There is none of that stringy white fat and, due to the applewood smoke, there is a more robust flavor. And there is virtually no waste with this cut.
A final benefit is that due to the thinner profile (think a large brisket) it fits into the refrigerator without overtaking it and it allows you to use both racks in the oven.
When cooking, give yourself a little more time and heat it slowly with a glaze (see recipes below). Place the carving ham on a rack to allow airflow around the meat. Generously glaze and let it slowly cook at 300˚ until fully warm at 130˚.
Remove from the oven and let sit loosely covered for 10-20 minutes before slicing. Drizzle more glaze.
The following video feature’s Corky’s Memphis BBQ, a truly fabulous restaurant, and their carving ham, which they describe as the filet of the ham. The video below explains how the carving ham can be glazed in traditional and BBQ manners.
Spiral and Whole Hams
Spiral hams are pre-cooked and the cooking process is to fully warm and season the ham. Seasoning can be done using the enclosed glaze packet or your own glaze (recipes below.)
Simply follow the directions on the packaging.
If you buy a whole ham on the bone a ham rack is a must. A traditional method of cooking is to cross hatch the exterior of the ham, inserting a clove where the cuts cross each other.
You can also use toothpicks to add pineapple spirals and maraschino cherries to the exterior.
To warm and season, place the ham in the center of a pan lined with tinfoil for easy cleanup and cook for the indicated time on the packaging.
Boneless formed hams
A boneless ham is shaped, somewhat, like a football. When cooking this ham you can flavor in much the same ways as you would a spiral or whole ham using glazes. A suggestion is that while slowly warming to 130 degrees, tent the ham to keep moisture in. These hams are easy to slice and make great “morning after”breakfast ham steaks.
The purpose of the ham glaze is to add moisture and flavor to the meat. The traditional glaze is brown sugar and water or fruit based.
A favorite and flavor-rich glaze:
- Juice from a can of pineapple and a can of peaches
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- Combine the juice and brown sugar, heating until thick but not bubbly.
An easy fruit based glaze includes:
- 1/2 cup jam apricot, peach and cherry all work well
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon mustard
Another great glaze has a Jack Daniels kicker
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup of Jack Daniels
- Half a bottle of real sugar cola* to create a thick, syrupy glaze.
Real sugar cola is made using cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. It is readily available in most grocery stores, located with the specialty sodas.
BBQ Glaze to use with carving ham:
- 1 cup of brown sugar
Rub dry rub over the entire ham and warm at 300 degrees. When the ham reach 130˚, remove and brush with your favorite wet sauce.
A traditional twist:
Combine the pineapple, peaches and maraschino cherries in a shallow roasting pan, lightly crumble brown sugar on top and put in the oven to fully warm and for the sugar to melt.
Arrange on a plate around the ham.
Honey Dijon for the Ham:
½ cup honey
¼ cup Dijon mustard
Blend by whisking together. Serve with your ham.
Lead Image: Upper left clockwise – Mildreds New England Petite Boneless Ham
Bone-In (shank) Whole Smoked Ham from Echo Valley Meats
Corky’s BBQ 4.75-lb Applewood Smoked Boneless Carving Ham
Smithfield Spiral Sliced Honey Glazed Hams