It's ham season for many of us. Apologies to those who don't consume pork for religious reasons, ethical reasons, or otherwise.
Ham season, for me, is just the precursor to smoked ham hocks and white beans - one of my all-time favorite dishes. Because that dish generally uses ham scraps in addition to the hocks, first must come the baked ham shank or butt. The key is to buy a cut that has a large bone in it - I go with the cheaper of the two cuts at the store, whichever that may be. If you have any questions about which cut is best for your particular meal, ask the butcher at the grocery store.
What does every delicious baked ham need? A delicious glaze, of course! Glazes require very little skill for how much flavor they can impart.
What constitutes a glaze anyway?
1. One or more sugars including but not limited to: molasses (try fancy or pomegranate), honey, agave nectar, brown sugar, white granulated sugar, soda, jellies and jams, maple syrup, and fruit syrups.
2. One or more liquid bases including but not limited to: booze (go with a brown type like rum or whiskey), vinegar (try apple cider vinegar or something fancy), or fruit juice (apple, apple cider, orange, pineapple, etc).
3. A variety of spices and seasoning products. There is really no limit to this aspect of your glaze. Some common seasonings include: mustard (I like Grey Poupon, but you can also experiment with spicy brown or stone ground or another), black pepper, red pepper, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.
Some less common seasonings might include: sesame oil, wasabi, curry paste, fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, dill, basil), fruit zest (orange, lemon, lime), coconut milk, and cocoa powder.
4. Heat! Your glaze doesn't become so until the sugars have caramelized on your food.
It's totally up to you about how traditional or zany you get with your flavors. There's a good chance that you've eaten a lot of boring ham. Maybe go mad scientist for this meal?
Here are three glazes fresh from my brain to your kitchen.
If you don't like one of the ingredients, substitute it for another! Also, consider that the flavor of the glaze before it gets cooked, i.e. in your mixing bowl, will be substantially different than the flavor of it after it has caramelized on your ham.
1. Citrus Soy: 2 cups dark brown sugar, zest from half a naval orange, all the juice from the orange, one cup soy sauce, 1/4 can Crush orange soda, 5 pieces of star anise, and 1 tablespoon of freshly crushed black pepper. Mix together well in a bowl.
2. Blackberry Curry: 1/2 cup honey, 1 jar seedless blackberry preserves, 1/4 cup coconut milk, 1 tablespoon panang curry paste (sautéed in a teaspoon of coconut oil for 5 minutes before adding to mixing bowl) , 3 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, and 3 kaffir lime leaves (your local Asian market probably has them frozen; P.S. leave them whole). Mix together well in a bowl.
3. Lemon Dijon with Mint: 1 cup agave nectar, 1 cup light brown sugar, 1 cup Grey Poupon, zest from 1 large lemon, all the juice from the lemon, 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper, and 4 bruised mint leaves. Mix together well in a bowl.
Here's how to cook it!
Preheat oven to 350* on bake. Combine all glaze ingredients well in a mixing bowl. Use non-stick spray on a large roasting pan. Place ham in the pan bone-side down. Score, in crosshatch pattern, your ham's fattiest portion about 1/2 inch deep to allow the glaze to better penetrate the meat. Brush or apply the glaze by hand to all portions of ham that won't sit flat in the pan. Baste the ham every 30 minutes while baking until heated through - about 2.5 hours. Tent your ham with foil if it begins to brown/caramelize too quickly. Allow your ham to rest for 15 minutes after you pull it from the oven.
Save the pork bone and some scraps for stock and/or soup!