Ham is so fitting for Christmas, and today I want to share two of my favorite ham recipes – Cola Ham, as pictured above, and Bourbon Gingersnap Ham. This Cola Ham takes it’s name from the main ingredient, you guessed it, coca-cola. It reduces down into a nice syrupy glaze that envelopes an oh’ so tender ham. I personally like a half bone-in ham (shank or butt portion, though butt has more meat). To kick up the recipe, I score the ham slightly with a knife in a diamond pattern (this helps flavoring to get into ham), rub the ham down in ground cloves first, dress with pineapple rings and cherries using toothpicks, then drizzle with honey and brown sugar. I then proceed to cook the ham, basting with the cola as it cooks. Since most hams you buy from the grocery store are already fully cooked, there is no need to overcook, you are in essence just heating it through, at about 15 minutes a pound. I do loosely tent the ham with foil as it is cooking, then about the last 30 minutes I crank up the heat to 350 and open the foil to allow a little caramelization to happen to the pineapples. I find that if I cook the ham with face part down, it is easier for me to cut with less waste. Hams are best served at room temperature after they have set, with a nice drizzle of the juice reduction that naturally will result from the cooked ham. You may find the recipe at home page titled “Cola Ham.”
The next fabulous ham I would like to share is a recipe called Bourbon Gingersnap Ham, though I have seen it named “City Ham” by Alton Brown. It calls for brown mustard, gingersnap cookies, bourbon, and brown sugar…does it get better than that? You just simply score the ham, rub on a layer of mustard all over, then pack all over with crushed gingersnaps and brown sugar to form a crust, then spritz with bourbon as it cooks. Wowza! My mom makes this ham and I swoom over it. It has become a highly requested ham each holiday season, and is sure to be a pleasant surprise to your dinner table. You may find the recipe on the home page titled “Bourbon Gingersnap Ham.”
Some helpful tips about hams: Make sure you find a good quality low-sodium bone-in ham that has nice fat marbling/layer evenly distributed and proportionate to meat. You don’t want it too fatty. This is what will help to ensure a tender ham, and the bone imparts flavor. There IS a profound taste difference in bone-in vs. boneless hams, and uncut vs. spiral ham. If you want to taste more of the “ham essence,” it is best to buy a whole or half intact bone-in ham and slice it yourself after cooking. As for seasoning, I rub each ham I prepare, regardless of recipe, in a little ground cloves. My grandmother traditionally used whole cloves, but I don’t like biting into a piece of clove, so aside from aesthetics, I think the ground clove rub works beautifully. You can even mix your brown sugar and ground cloves together to save a step in rubbing over ham. And be sure to let your ham rest before slicing. As for cooking, make sure not to just leave it in the oven after cooking as this tends to dry it out. Take it out, loosely cover with foil, and let it rest at room temperature. As a side note, I do like to cover the bottom of pan with foil that is cupped around the ham and sides to collect the juices as it cooks, and prevent the juices from burning. You can reduce the juice off your ham by pouring it in a saucepan, adding in a little pineapple juice, and letting it simmer until it reduces to a slight syrupy consistency.
And once you’re finished consuming that ham, don’t throw the ham bone away. Either use it right away to make a nice split pea soup or pot of beans, or wrap tightly and freeze for later use. It will keep for about 4-6 weeks in your freezer. Enjoy!