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All hams begin as a roast from the hind leg of a pig, 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, you can 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. Below is one of my favorite ways to glaze a ham, as well as a couple recipes for using the leftovers.
Combine the honey and molasses; heat in the microwave or in a pan on the stove top. Stir in bourbon, orange juice, and mustard.
Remove all but about 1/4-inch of fat from the ham, then place in a roasting pan. Bake at 325 for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a meat thermometer reaches 140 degrees (about 10 minutes per pound). Baste the ham occasionally with the honey-bourbon mixture.
Transfer drippings to a saucepan and add remaining honey mixture; bring to a boil. Slice ham and serve with the glaze.
6 green onions, with about 3 inches of green top, chopped
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 to 1 1/2 cups diced cooked ham
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
3 pounds peeled potatoes, thinly sliced, about 6 to 8 cups sliced potatoes
In a saucepan, melt butter over medium low heat; add celery, green onions, carrots, and ham. Sauté, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender. Add flour, stirring until well blended. Gradually add 1 1/4 cups milk, stirring constantly. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly; add 1 cup cheese. Cook until cheese is melted; add more milk if mixture is very thick. In a 2-quart casserole, place a layer of the potatoes, a layer of sauce, then repeat layers. Bake at 325° for 45 minutes; top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and bake for about 10 minutes longer, or until cheese is melted.
8 slices white bread, crust removed, cut into cubes
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/4 cups cubed, cooked ham (about 8 ounces)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
6 eggs, beaten
3 cups milk
Place bread cubes in a lightly greased 12x8x2-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese, ham, onion, and green pepper. Whisk together eggs and milk; pour over ham and cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours. Remove from refrigerator; let stand 30 minutes. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 40 minutes or until set.
Yields: 8 servings
Preparation Time: 1 hour, plus chilling and resting time