Thursday, April 28, 2011

Best Ham Ever

It's been almost a week since Easter, but I'm still thinking about the ham. I was determined this year not just to stick a grocery store ham with some kind of glaze on it in the oven and hope for the best. I went to the cookbooks, and what I found there surprised me.

First, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. He recommended a laborious process: soak the ham in cold water for 24 hours, then boil it for 4 hours and let it sit in the hot water another 4 hours. Then bake it at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. That sounded completely crazy to me, so I took out the Dean and Deluca Cookbook, which I like to consult about meat. It took a simpler route, but the "secret" was still the same. Boil the ham for 1 1/2 hours and let it sit another hour, then glaze it (with some kind of coffee mixture) and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

They couldn't BOTH be wrong!  So on Easter morning, I stuck the free ham that we got for pooling four households' grocery receipts for a month in a big pot of boiling water. It was about as ordinary looking a ham as they come. The house smelled awful, basically like boiling ham. But after the time boiling and then about an equal time sitting in the hot water, I took it out and it looked unlike any ham I've ever seen. It looked like meat! Not compacted, cured meat that is one step away from a deli counter, but like a hunk of actual meat that might have come from an animal. The rind was loosened and you could see fat beneath it. I trimmed off a fair amount of the rind, exposing the fatty layer, into which I stuck a lot of cloves. On top I spread about a half jar of orange marmalade that I'd heated in a saucepan with 1 Tbs of mustard (per Bittman). Then in the oven for 30 minutes.

It was the best ham I have ever had. I wish I'd made two! I am not sure I can wait until next Easter, but now that I've discovered what ham can be, I might even opt for it again at Christmas. I should have taken a photo, but we had 33 people at our house for the feast. I did get some photos of people in the new kitchen, however! It was a fantastic day. Adorable children, too!

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