April 24, 2011

Mum's Baked Ham

Before being sliced for Easter dinner
I didn't care for ham growing up. It was always either the fancy spiral ham for a special occasion, or the canned ham you opened with a key.

Then I got married and had my mother in law's ham.

As I have said previously, my mother in law was an amazing cook. I doubt very highly there was anything she couldn't cook and cook well (my husband mentions liver with distaste, but I don't think anyone can make liver palatable if you don't like it).  She made the best ham I have ever tasted, and it wasn't one of those expensive spiral or fancy hams.

The ham of her choice, and the one I use, is a smoked picnic shoulder ham:

It has a bone running through it, which is why it's probably cheaper than the fancier hams. I say cheaper, but I have noticed that as this cut has become more popular - as people are discovering how much better it tastes - the more expensive they have become. I never used to pay this much for this kind of ham!

The secret to achieving a mildly salty ham is to boil it for about 1 hour. Put it in the the largest pot you have, I have a 9 litre Dutch oven from IKEA, and boil it, covered. This removes much of the salt from them ham. If you skip that step it will not taste right. Also, by boiling it you can reduce the roasting time as you are cooking the ham as it boils.

Mum's Baked Ham
serves 4 to 6, depending on the size of your ham

A smoked picnic should ham (mine, above, was 9 lbs)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbs dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
whole cloves, for studding the ham

Remove your ham from the plastic wrapper, but not from the netting (if there is netting). Place the ham in a pot larger than the ham, preferably a pot higher than the ham.

Add col water to the pot, trying to cover as much of the ham as possible without the danger of boiling over. Bring water to a boil and cover. Reduce heat slightly to maintain a rolling boil without boiling over.

Boil for about 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of your ham. During this period, turn your ham over so that both sides even boil.

When finished boiling, remove the ham from your water - keep the water for boiling potatoes if you are doing roasted potatoes. They have a richer flavour when boiled in the ham water and roasted in the ham drippings.

Remove the netting from your ham and place in a large roasting pan, skin and fat side on top. I cover my pan in foil so I don't have to scrub away at it after use, it makes clean up so much easier.

Remove the skin from the fat and either discard, or stick it in the pan to make pork crackling (which sounds disgusting but it's tasty!). Remove some of the fat, leaving a thin layer on the top. If making roasted potatoes in the pan, put the removed fat in the bottom of the pan to melt as the roast cooks.

Score the top of the fat in a diamond pattern (make cuts front to back diagonally on the the fat, turn the ham and repeat the other way).

Preheat your oven to 425F. Upper rack on the lowest position in the oven.

Mix the brown sugar, mustard and ground cloves together. The amounts given are for ratio purposes, I generally mix it without measuring it. For a bigger ham, use more, for a smaller ham, use less.

Slather the top of the ham with the brown sugar/mustard/clove mixture, for fun I use my hands.

Next is the most tedious part of ham prep, the clove studding. I hate this part. I have skipped it in the past, but it just doesn't taste as good without it. Put on some music, or a good audiobook, grab your cloves and start sticking them in each little diamond bit. Or, when you hate it as much as I do, every other or every two diamond bits. I have been known to get so frustrated with it that I just slap them on all over the top and press them in and hope for the best. It's like "Cloven Ham Roulette" every time I make it.

At this point your ham should look similar to this (I'd understand if you've just slapped the cloves on and said "The hell with it!"):

Cover your ham lightly with foil. If you don't, you run the risk of having the brown sugar/mustard/clove mixture burn before the ham is cooked. Better to cook the ham and brown the mixture at the end.

Bake ham for about 2 to 4 hours, reducing the temperature as needed. I give the wide range as some oven run hotter and your hams many vary in size. Remove when you think it's cooked, you can return the ham to the oven if not done.

What the fully baked ham should look like
Let the finished ham rest for about 15 minutes, then slice. Carefully slice around the bone. Serve.

A word of warning - you will bite into a clove when eating the ham. You cannot avoid it if you use them. Enjoy the faces and the sounds when it happens, and keep a beverage at the ready.

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