Let’s start with serving a beautiful roast ham for Easter dinner. To accompany the ham, a cherry chutney, spiked with a glug of bourbon, will please my cocktail-loving crowd. Oh, and biscuits seasoned with sharp Cheddar and dill.
A ham comes from the upper hip portion and rear legs of a pig. A whole ham means it’s both the shank end, which narrows near the foot, and the wide butt end. A fresh ham is just that — pork with no cure, no smoke. Season a fresh ham as you would a pork roast and cook it to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Most hams sold in supermarkets and butcher shops across the United States fall into the category of city ham. These are hams that are injected with a wet cure before hot-smoking, which fully cooks them. They typically weigh up to 20 pounds. These fully cooked hams take center stage at many holiday meals because they are lean, moist and relatively inexpensive per serving. Most supermarkets sell butt end (tender, but trickier to carve) and shank end (easier to carve, but often drier) portions of fully cooked ham weighing about 8 pounds — plenty for a gathering of 10 to 12 guests.
Spiral sliced hams are fully cooked city hams that have been sliced on a special machine; they are easy to serve as the carving is done for you. However, read labels carefully as some pre-sliced hams are awfully sweet and injected with ingredients some of us prefer to avoid.
Serving a whole, or portion of, a city ham proves simple — you only need to gently warm the lean meat. Most fully cooked hams simply require a low oven with something added to the pan to provide a moist environment. Be sure you don’t overheat the lean meat — this is not the place for a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Calculate 12 to 15 minutes per pound in a 325-degree oven to sufficiently heat a fully cooked ham. I like to wrap the ham in heavy-duty foil and add 1 cup of water (or half water and half beer) to the pan to keep things moist when heating. If you choose to use the grill for heating a ham, be sure to set it in a foil-covered pan with liquid; arrange the coals or adjust the gas burners so they are not directly under the ham.
I’m not a big fan of sweet glazes and pineapple slices covering up the delicious flavor of the smoked meat. Instead, I offer tangy, bold mustards, pickles, relishes and chutneys on the side to complement the meat. This triple cherry chutney boasts a bit of bourbon and mustard to counter the fruits’ sweet nature. It tastes great with a smoky ham as well as roast duck, grilled chicken and pork chops. Try it on top of toast spread with goat cheese or mascarpone.
Leftover ham is a beautiful thing. Thin slices on a warm Cheddar biscuit with a fried egg might just be the best sandwich in the world. The savory cobbler that follows combines ham and vegetables with a light gravy and a topping of cheesy biscuits. Double the cobbler recipe and invite your friends. They’ll be yours for life.