Christmas is coming. Okay, so it’s a few months away, but it is coming none the less. Time to test a few new recipes for the Christmas Table. One thing I know for sure – Christmas will include a ham. In our house, it simply would not be Christmas without a ham.
It seems to me that more often than not, when I’m serving up a ham I tend to stick to the “traditional” glazed ham I know so well. You know the one – with pineapple ring and cherries held into place with whole cloves – such a delicious throw-back to childhood memories. I can almost smell my parent’s kitchen at the holidays, be it Christmas or Easter. That distinct aroma of cloves was undeniable. Our house was always bursting at the seams with cousins, uncles, aunts and assorted “adopted” family for holiday meals. On average, there were at least ten to twelve children – little staggered stepping-stones – twice as many children as adults.
The grownups naturally gravitated to the kitchen, cup of coffee in hand, taking up their respective places at the holiday table. For whatever reason, to my ears they all seemed to be chattering at once – the men in English, the women in a mixture of Spanish, English and Tagalog. Everyone was dressed up in their Holiday best, having just come from Mass.
Upon our return from Mass Dad, with a kitchen towel draped over his left shoulder, heads straight for the oven to check on his ham. The ham always seemed to take forever to reach that perfect doneness when the meat was cooked through, all smokey and flavorful, and the fat curled up nice and crisp. Just when it was that Dad popped his ham into a slow oven is beyond me. All I knew with any certainty is that it made its way into the oven sometime between Santa’s visit and our departure for Saint Paul’s to attend Mass. Satisfied that all is well, Dad would pour himself a cup of coffee and joins the others at the table.
Holiday meals were so special. Christmas Dinner was one of three “special” occasions when real butter would be at the table, along with hot dinner rolls and a big bowl of black olives – perfect for sticking onto the ends of our fingers. (Is there any other way to eat black olives?)
Yeah, we’ll be having ham for Christmas, even if I do decide to serve it along side a Christmas Goose. Some traditions will never die. These days it’s not a matter of “if” a ham will be served but more a question of how the ham is prepared. Recipes need to be tested – and in my book that’s as good an excuse as any to serve up a Sunday Ham Supper on a Saturday evening . . .
Apricot Brown Sugar Glazed Ham
1 (8-10 pound) smoked picnic ham (bone-in)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup apricot jam
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Place the ham cut side down onto a sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side up. With a sharp knife, score the ham to allow glaze to seep into the meat.
Mix together the brown sugar, apricot jam and mustard powder in a small bowl. Pop mixture into the microwave for about 30 seconds to soften and make it more spreadable.
Brush onto the ham using a pastry or barbecue brush. Be sure to brush cut side as well. The ham should be well-coated with about half of the glaze mixture. Reserve remaining glaze for later. Enclose the foil around the ham and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
Roast in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes per pound.
About 20 minutes before the ham is done, apply all the remaining glaze. Roll foil down, exposing the ham so that glaze with thicken, and any skin or fat will brown nicely. (Note: If glaze has thickened simply zap in microwave for about 30 seconds).
Hold the presses! Dinner was unbelievable! This recipe produced the most tender, flavorful, moist ham I have ever eaten. I don’t know if cooking the ham in my roasting oven rather than the big oven made any difference. I know I have a few more recipes to try . . . yet I have to admit, this was delicious!