Ham it up
December 23, 2008 6:46 PM   Subscribe

OK. My family have in the fridge a (reads label carefully) cooked, smoked, uncured ham. Please help me with your glaze recipes and ham preparation tips.

This is an off-the-shelf supermarket ham. If it had been up to me I'd have gone for a proper artisan ham, preferably free-range, but my mother did the buying. I have a horrible feeling that it might be pre-seasoned with artificial crap. Please help me help this ham.
posted by Pallas Athena to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I like a mustard-brown sugar glaze for ham. It's easy-peasy - a cup of packed brown sugar (I like dark), a big scoop of mustard (I like whole grain Dijon, maybe about a third of a cup), and a dribble of vinegar (cider, usually, at our house). It will be loose and crumbly; you sort of have to pack it on the fat side of the ham like wet sand. I usually put it on half an hour or so before I think the thing will be done; any earlier and it burns, and what you're going for is melted goo, carmelized in spots.

Very simple, but classic and good. If your ham is cooked already, it really only needs heating through - if it's pre-sliced, be extra careful not to cook too long, as you'll dry it out.

Supermarket ham isn't that bad, it's probably jammed with nitrates and such but it will still taste decent. Taste a bit and adjust the glaze to suit - you may want more mustard or vinegar if it's your typical very sweet supermarket ham. Stud with cloves or not, depending on your tolerance for kitsch.
posted by peachfuzz at 7:46 PM on December 23, 2008

Not a fan of mustard here, so we go Heinz 57 and brown sugar plus cloves. Mmmmm...
posted by CwgrlUp at 7:51 PM on December 23, 2008

My grandmother pours two cans of Coca-Cola over her ham before she bakes it (and bastes it every half hour or so). Every year I am horrified and proceed to be That Girl who expounds on high fructose corn syrup and phosphorus until the ham is ready and then I eat 67 pieces.
posted by kerning at 8:06 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Alton Brown's glaze (haven't had it myself) goes:
Layer of mustard
Layer of brown sugar, packed against the ham with your hand
Spritz of bourbon, all around
Layer of (very finely) crushed ginger snap cookies

If you can find his episode of "Good Eats" on ham, it helped me learn a lot. Basically, the USDA has labeling requirements related to the ratio between ham and water added:

Ham with no water added (very dried) is labeled just "ham" and is informally called "country ham." Country ham takes a lot of preparation and rehydrating - I doubt it's what you have here.

Ham with some water added is labeled "ham in natural juices" and is informally "city ham." This is what you want to have, optimally. Alton says: "A city ham is basically any brined ham that's packed in a plastic bag, held in a refrigerated case and marked "ready to cook", "partially cooked" or "ready to serve". Better city hams are also labeled "ham in natural juices"." If it has a bone stuck in it, or it looks like an animal's leg, chances are you have a city ham. Any of your glazes will go well with this - whatever glaze you choose, Alton's cooking instructions in the link are the way to go.

Ham with more water added is called "ham, water added" or "ham / water product." My apologies if that's what's in your hands. Hopefully somebody smarter than I can help make the best of that situation.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:15 PM on December 23, 2008

Response by poster: Policywonk, thank you, that's very helpful. I think what I have is a city ham-- it does say "no water added," but then the ingredients say "pork, water, spices," etc. So I'm not sure how that works.

kerning, I know where you're coming from-- I had ham in Coke at a party last week and it was great, but I think I'm pining for the taste of something a little more old-school.

Great work so far; I'll happily read anything you have to say!
posted by Pallas Athena at 9:25 PM on December 23, 2008

As I understand it, all hams are smoked and spiced to some degree, but your city ham is probably not spiced enough to be fully enjoyable all on its own.

The best rule, as always, is use the kind of ingredients, tastes and spices you like. A little Googling with one or two flavors in mind will go a long way.

(The point of using Coke is the sugar. For an old school variation, I'd say use any sugary liquid with a taste you'd like to emulate. Apple juice, for instance.)
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:08 PM on December 23, 2008

This serious eats recipe has me salivating mightily.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 10:41 PM on December 23, 2008

Best answer: Take one ham joint and soak all day in cold water. This helps remove the salt and any crap. Place in large pan with lots of cold water. Bring to boil and throw water away. Repeat, but this time boil for approx 45 mins to 1 hour depending on size of joint. Place in roasting dish. Stick cloves into rind. Cover rind with honey and / or brown sugar. Pour in some cider so it is just sitting in it, not too much. Place in oven at about 190C / 375F. Cook for about an hour depending on size of joint. You can give an occasional baste with cider to keep it moist.
posted by TrashyRambo at 5:17 AM on December 24, 2008

Best answer: From the USDA:

Smoking and Smoke Flavoring
After curing, some hams are smoked. Smoking is a process by which ham is hung in a smokehouse and allowed to absorb smoke from smoldering fires, which gives added flavor and color to meat and slows the development of rancidity. Not all smoked meat is smoked from smoldering fires. A popular process is to heat the ham in a smoke house and generate smoke from atomized smoke flavor.

In addition to the main categories, some processing choices can affect legal labeling. A smoked ham must have been smoked by hanging over burning hickory wood chips in a smokehouse. Injecting "smoke flavor" is not legal grounds for claiming the ham was "smoked".

So "smoked" really means smoked (or cooked in a smoke mist), not injected with "artificial smoke flavour".

The uncured part means (from the USDA again):
Ham that does not contain a cure must be labeled either "Fresh" or "Uncured" – prepared without nitrate or nitrite. This also applies to cooked product, and must be labeled cooked product "Cooked Uncured Ham."

So the carcinogenic nitrite additives have not been added to your ham. Typically this means that you have to use it a bit faster than a cured Ham, and that it will taste a little milder.

If you wanted a real smoked pork leg without the bad preservatives, it looks like that's what you got. There probably still will be a few other preservatives in the ham brine, but those should be on the label.
posted by bonehead at 8:41 AM on December 24, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, all! I will bake this monster about two hours and then use a glaze that combines many of your suggestions: cider, mustard, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and maple syrup. Happy holidays to all!
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:03 AM on December 25, 2008

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