When I was a child, New Year’s Day at my grandmothers was the best meal of the holiday season. She would make a ham. Our family never went for the ready to eat variety, it was always a pork picnic shoulder; the kind of ham you really need to cook. The smell of ham cooking would waft through her house and my mouth would water at the though of dinner. As an adult, I usually cook a couple of hams a year. The next day, I turn the leftovers, the bones and the broth from cooking the ham into split pea soup.
The cooking starts off with boiling the ham for about 3 hours. This does two things: it cooks the ham and reduces the amount of salt left in the meat. Most pots are not big enough to accommodate a ham completely. It mostly fit in my Le Crueset and the heavy lid pressed down on it. About halfway through the cooking time, it is important to turn the ham over. I usually start it with the fat side up. Turning the ham can be a little tricky so it is best to take your time. I find that using to large carving forks works quite well. Once the ham is done boiling, transfer it to the baking pan (make sure to keep the liquid from boiling the ham to make soup). In my case, I put it in my oval orange Le Creuset baking pan. At this point you need to remove the mesh bag around the ham. Make sure to take your time, especially on the meat side so you don’t lose too much of the meat. There is also a piece of skin on the fat section of the ham that also needs to be removed.
The next steps is where the magic happens. I make a glaze for the ham from:
1 can of frozen orange juice concentrate
1 cup of brown sugar
¼ of a cup cornstarch
¼ cup of yellow mustard
½ teaspoon of ground cloves
All measurements are approximate as I kind of just throw it all in a bowl and mix it up. My grandmother would take a lot of time with her ham, decorating it with pineapple rings, maraschino cherries and whole cloves and then she would put the glaze on it. It is important to put the glaze on when the ham is hot as it will stick to the meat because the cornstarch will thicken it. I put ½ of the glaze on the ham and put it in the oven at about 325 degrees. The ham needs to bake for about 1 and ½ hours in a covered pan. Halfway through I put more glaze on it. It is important to watch the ham as the sugar content in the glaze can cause it to burn. You also have to ensure that the ham is in there long enough for the glaze to set. If you don’t cook it long enough the glaze will have a chalky texture because the cornstarch has not been cooked long enough. Once the ham is done, remove it to a cutting board. If you want gravy from the glaze (and trust me you do, salty and sweet!) you will likely need to thin it out a little bit with some water so it is the consistency of gravy. We generally serve ham with scalloped potatoes and some other vegetables.
Check back tomorrow for the pea soup process!