March 18, 2013

The centerpiece of your Easter table is sure to be a ham. Have you ever wondered why ham is the most popular food served for Easter in the United States?

Years ago, most families bought a pig each spring, fattened it up over the summer and then butchered it at the beginning of a cold winter. Some of the meat was eaten right away and some of it was preserved. The ham's curing process takes a long time, and the first hams were ready around the beginning of spring, just in time to celebrate Easter.

Ham is a delectable addition to any dinner, and following the package directions will always yield good results. However, if you want to take your holiday ham to the next level, try a glaze.

A glaze can be any combination of ingredients that is brushed on the meat to enhance the flavor. There are innumerable recipes for ham glazes. Most have five or fewer ingredients, and most are a combination of savory or spicy and sweet.

By keeping the glaze fairly simple will allow the flavors to come through, but not overpower the natural flavor of ham.

Chinese Glaze Recipe

I found this recipe on a food blog written by Sophia Young. It is certainly not a traditional ham glaze, but one to try when you feel like cooking something out of the ordinary.

1/2 cup hoisin sauce

1/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

1 finely chopped garlic clove

1 teaspoon finely grated ginger

Make a slit in the rind of the ham. Trim the rind and fat at the same time, leaving 1/4 inch layer of fat on ham. Make diagonal cuts along the surface of the ham, on the fat layer, making sure not to penetrate the meat. Next, make diagonal cuts in the opposite direction, forming diamond shapes in the fat layer.

In a small bowl mix together all of the ingredients and brush glaze over the ham. As the ham cooks, occasionally brush it with the extra glaze.

Onion-Glazed Baked Ham

Onions, brown sugar, and wine create a glaze sure to please on Easter Sunday.

1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix

1 cup water

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup Madeira wine or sherry

2 tablespoons margarine

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

5-6 lb fully cooked ham butt end

1 lb shallots or small onions, peeled and quartered

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Blend onion soup mix, water, sugar, wine, margarine, and parsley in small bowl; set aside.

Arrange ham in roasting pan. Score (lightly cut) fat with knife in diamond pattern; top with soup mixture. Arrange shallots around ham. Bake, stirring shallots and basting ham occasionally, 60 minutes or until golden brown.

Balsamic Glaze

Here is a versatile glaze that can be used for almost anything. It can be poured over fish, poultry, vegetables and even fruit. It has an intense flavor that is a perfect balance of sweet and tangy.

2 cups balsamic vinegar

½ cup brown sugar

Mix balsamic vinegar with brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until glaze is reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Glaze should coat the back of a spoon. Let cool and pour into a jar with a lid; store in refrigerator.

Baked Ham with Brown Sugar Honey Glaze

Trisha Yearwood is known for her Southern Comfort food, and her baked ham is no exception. Her two-ingredient glaze is sticky and sweet.

18-20 lb smoked ham, water added, ham hock removed

1 (16 oz) box light brown sugar

1 cup (8 oz jar) clover honey

Adjust the oven racks to accommodate a large covered roasting pan. Fit the pan with a shallow rack. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Unwrap the ham and rinse it in cold water. Place it on the rack in the roasting pan. Cover the pan with the lid and bake for half the estimated cooking time (total cooking time is about 20 minutes per pound). Halfway through the estimated cooking time, add the sugar and honey to a saucepan, cooking over medium heat until smooth and sugar is dissolved. Pour the mixture over the ham and continue baking the ham, basting occasionally with the drippings in the roaster.

Check for doneness at the end of the estimated cooking time by inserting a meat thermometer at a meaty point (not into fat or touching the bone). It should register 160 degrees.

Allow the ham to stand for 15 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to set.

Mustard Orange Glazed Ham

Many ham glazes call for mustard. In this recipe mustard has just enough spice to offset the sweetness of the sugar and orange glaze.

1 (9-10 lb) fully cooked bone in ham, butt or shank portion

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup honey mustard

1 orange, zested and juiced (you'll use both)

Take ham out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before you are going to cook it. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lay the ham with the flat side down on a cutting board. Using a paring knife, score a crosshatch pattern around the outside of the ham. Try to just pierce through the top layer. The cuts will expand with the cooking process.

Line roasting pan completely with foil (a very important step). Place roasting rack in your roasting pan. Place the ham on the roasting pan flat side down. Then pour some water into the bottom of the roasting pan, about 1/4 inch deep. Place ham in the oven and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes per pound.

When ham has 15 minutes left to cook, mix together the glaze ingredients. Place the brown sugar, mustard, orange zest and orange juice in a bowl and mix together.

Remove the ham from the oven. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees. If there is no water in the bottom of the pan, add more. Brush the entire ham with a coat of the glaze. Once the oven has reached the 425 degrees, return the ham to the oven and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove the ham from the oven and baste with glaze for a second time and cook for 15 minutes. Baste the ham with the glaze 1 more time and cook for 15 more minutes (baste 3 times total).

Let ham cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Slice ham and serve. If any glaze remains, you can microwave it until bubbly, about 15-30 seconds, and drizzle over the ham sliced if desired.

Note: A 9-10 lb ham should serve 12.

Pineapple Glazed Ham

If you like pineapple, you'll love this glaze. By adding whole cloves to your Easter ham, you will not only add a bit of spice, but you will wow your family with a picture-perfect main dish.

1 (about 10 lb) cooked, smoked bone-in ham

1½ tablespoons whole cloves

2 cups pineapple juice

1 cup light-brown sugar

¼ cup Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. With a sharp knife, remove skin and all but ¼ inch fat from ham, then score a diamond pattern into fat. Press in a clove at each diamond point. Place ham in a roasting pan and roast for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make glaze by bringing pineapple juice, brown sugar and mustard to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Gently boil until thickened and reduced by about half, about 30 minutes.

Brush ham with glaze and roast for 15 minutes; then repeat, for a total roasting time of 30 minutes. Remove ham from oven and let rest for 15 minutes. Discard cloves and carve ham into slices.