My mother once told me that “a ham and two people is eternity”–but the ham I cooked on Saturday night turned out so well, I think I could happily eat it forever. My boyfriend and I certainly have a lot of leftovers in the fridge now–we have barely put a dent in the ham so far–but it’s so good. My mom never cooked a traditional bone-in ham when I was growing up. We’d usually do turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and lamb at Easter, so getting to have real ham (as opposed to deli or pressed ham) was a real, rare treat. It never even occurred to me to cook a proper ham on my own until this past Christmas. I had really enjoyed the ham that a friend brought to a Thanksgiving potluck, so when left to my own devices at Christmas, I went with ham.
My Christmas ham was quite a production. I can’t find the recipe right now, but it was very involved: there was a complicated glaze, and lots of basting, and it took forever to cook. I was happy with the results at the time, but thought I could do better.
To start with, I made a batch of homemade mustard on Friday. I used this Beer and Onion Mustard recipe from Martha Stewart, following the recipe exactly–except for using an amber ale (Yukon Red, made by the excellent Yukon Brewing Co.) instead of a pale ale. I’m sure there’s not much of a flavour difference in the finished mustard; I was just choosing a beer that I’d be happy to drink.
I had a bottle of leftover bottle of champagne (!) from New Year’s, and Saturday felt like the perfect night for it. We had carrots and yam fries, too–very orange but easy to whip up. I just tossed the carrots with a little drizzle of oil and then threw them on the same cookie sheet as the yam fries to roast for a few minutes while the ham rested.
Here’s exactly how to ham like I hammed:
- Preheat oven to 300 fahrenheit;
- Roughly chop an onion and toss it into the bottom of your roasting pan;
- Add about 1/2 cup of red wine (or whatever you have open on hand) and 1/2 a cup of water into the roasting pan (maybe use less if your roasting pan is small? You want an inch or two of liquid in the bottom);
- Score the ham with a diamond pattern, cutting about 1/2 an inch deep (after trimming off excess skin or fat if required);
- Place the ham on a rack in the roasting pan and cover with foil;
- Put the roasting pan in the oven and let it cook; enjoy ignoring the ham while you quilt/sew/knit away your Saturday afternoon. I was using an electronic meat thermometer similar to thermometer #1 listed here, and it took about 3 1/2 hours for the ham to reach the recommended temperature. Definitely use a thermometer of some kind as it takes away the guess work.
- Once the ham is done according to the meat thermometer, pull the foil off the ham and spoon the maple syrup+mustard+thyme glaze over the ham; then let the ham cook uncovered for another ten minutes;
- Remove the ham from the oven and transfer to a large cutting board;
- Let the ham rest, covered with foil, while you prepare whatever veggies you like–about a ten minute rest;
- Then just carve and serve with the homemade mustard!
This seems like so many steps now that I write it out, but really it was so simple! So much better than my Christmas ham, which required so much more fuss, and didn’t turn out nearly so tender. I suspect that you could make it even easier and skip the glaze entirely–I think my ham’s good flavour and texture came from the aromatics/moisture of the wine and onion in the bottom of the roasting pan. Next time I might add some garlic and marjoram to the broth.