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Christmas and New Year's are on our doorsteps and that means a lot of people are going to be enjoying ham at their holiday tables. All hams begin as a roast from the hind leg of a hog, which is called a fresh ham. Before this roast is prepared, it is no different from any other pork roast. Because hams are prepared in several different ways, how it gets to be a ham is a rather complicated process. They can be aged, cured, smoked or cooked. The ham you buy at the store is generally wet or brine cured. This process involves injecting the ham with a combination of salt, sugar, sodium nitrite, sodium erythorbate, sodium phosphate, potassium chloride, water, and flavorings. Then the ham is cooked to a temperature of 150 degrees F. The combination of the chemical brine and the cooking will kill off bacteria and make a ham safe to eat.
There are several ways to dress up a prepared ham that will add flavor and improve the quality of the ham. When serving a precooked ham for a formal gathering, push in a dozen or so whole cloves, top with pineapple slices, glaze with a nice mustard sauce and bake in the oven at 350º F for a couple of hours, depending on the size. This will heat the ham and add some flavor. To really dress up the ham, try it on the grill or in the smoker. For some other ideas, try either a honey glaze on a smoked ham or maple mustard on the baking ham. Either can add zest to the flavor. Additionally, grated horseradish in the maple mustard sauce really livens up the flavor. As a special gift for those making special holiday glazed hams, here are two great recipes that are perfect for your holiday plans:
4 to 6 pound boneless fully cooked smoked ham half
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey
1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Orange slices, thinly sliced
Curly endive, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325° F.
On a rack in a roasting pan, roast the ham, uncovered, for about 20 minutes per pound, or until a meat thermometer reads 140° F.
Before the ham is done, simmer a mixture of the brown sugar, Jack Daniel's whiskey, orange peel, cloves, and allspice over medium low heat for about 15 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
Brush the glaze over the ham about 20 minutes before it's done.
Combine the honey and molasses; heat in the microwave or in a pan on the stove top.
Stir in the bourbon, orange juice, and mustard.
Remove all but about 1/4-inch of fat from the ham, then place it in a roasting pan. Bake the ham at 325° F for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a meat thermometer reaches 140° F degrees (about 10 minutes per pound). Baste the ham occasionally with the honey-bourbon mixture.
Transfer the drippings to a saucepan and add the remaining honey mixture; bring to a boil. Slice the ham and serve with the glaze.