Glazed ham: A salty-sweet treat
This glazed ham recipe calls for a one-two sweet-and-sour punch, with a ham glaze made from sweet pineapple and tangy balsamic vinegar. This baked ham is a little different, in that it doesn't require scoring a diamond pattern on the meat - this reduces prep time and you still get a delicious ham…
How did ham become an Easter tradition?
Along with deviled eggs and hot cross buns, glazed ham is a common sight on Easter dinner tables. Legends and lore abound about why we eat ham this time of year. Ham has traditionally been served in Germany for centuries to celebrate springtime. From a practical standpoint, hams were often cured and preserved through the harsh, cold winter months, making them ready to eat when Easter rolled around, long before butchering time arrived for other animals. This may also explain why ham sometimes graces the Christmas table.
Notable ham-producing regions
You’ll find ham throughout the world, with flavor and texture differences that vary depending on preservation method and the characteristics of the region’s meat itself. Some recognizable hams include Proscuitto di Parma from Italy, Westphalian and Black Forest ham from Germany, and Jamon Serrano and Iberico from Spain. America is also making a name for itself in ham circles with some of the best ham coming out of Southern states like Virginia and Kentucky.
How is ham made?
Using a cut of pork from the pig’s upper leg, classic ham preparations involve preserving the meat through dry salt curing, wet brining and sometimes smoking. Dry curing entails covering the meat with salt, herbs and spices, then washing it and hanging it to dry for anywhere from several months to several years. A quicker method, wet curing immerses the ham in a salt/sugar brine or pumps the brine solution directly into the meat and lets it sit for several days up to several weeks. The meat may also be placed in a smokehouse or smoker for an extra flavor boost.
What to look for when buying a ham
When shopping for ham, be aware that products with water or brine added are often less expensive because they have a higher water content than their meatier counterparts. Look for good coloring, a plump appearance and fresh smell. And don’t be intimidated by bone-in ham — it lends more flavor to the meat. Just like with your Thanksgiving turkey, go big to guarantee leftovers for sandwiches and snacking. If carving it intimidates you, get a spiral-cut ham and save yourself the trouble: A spiral ham comes pre-cut. If you're serving a smaller group, many stores will sell you a half ham.
A great beginner's dish
Because ham is sold precooked, it's the perfect choice if you're cooking your first big Easter dinner, or if you're looking to reduce your holiday stress. Ham can technically be served at room temperature straight from the store: You are basically reheating it for this baked ham recipe. Remember to be sure that your roasting pan will fit the ham you buy - or buy a disposable one that fits.
This pineapple-raisin glaze is wonderful, but know that ham plays nicely with a wide range of glazes and sauces. Because hams are inherently salty, sweet glaze recipes and barbecue sauces made with honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, root beer, honey mustard, ground cloves, ground cinnamon — even peanut butter! — can provide a nice flavor contrast that can really take your ham to the next level. Glazes are high in sugar and can easily burn, so you’ll want to wait until the last 15 or 20 minutes of cooking to brush them on. (For a sweet crunchy crust, crank the broiler up to high for a minute or two at the very end.)
Ham pairs beautifully with simply prepared fresh seasonal vegetables like snap peas, asparagus, fava beans and spring lettuce salads, as well as new potatoes with fresh herbs. For a holiday meals, dinner rolls make a great addition (and great ham sandwiches the next day with dijon mustard and a swipe of mayo).
- Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Place ham on rack in shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, for 1 1/4 hours, until internal temperature (measured with a meat thermometer) is 140 degrees F. (about 15-18 minutes per pound.)
- To make the Pineapple-Raisin Sauce: In a medium saucepan, sauté onion in butter until tender. Add remaining juice concentrate, water, raisins, maple syrup and mustard. Stir together 1/4 cup vinegar and cornstarch; stir into raisin mixture. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more.
- To make the glaze for basting: In small saucepan, combine half of the juice concentrate, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, 3 tablespoons vinegar, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, simmer uncovered, for 5-10 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.
- Baste ham with glaze during the last 15-20 minutes of baking.
- Remove ham from oven, slice and serve with Pineapple-Raisin Sauce.