Here’s how not to screw up your Christmas ham
It’s time to start thinking about that Christmas dinner, and if ham is on the menu, you’ll need to decide how you want to fix it.
Almost all the ham sold in the U.S. is already cooked and sometimes smoked. You can get it with or without the bone, sliced or unsliced, but they almost all come with a packet of glaze to add to the ham while cooking it.
Many cooks swear by a can of Coke, a jar of apricot jelly or even the powdered stuff you’ll find in that packet, but British cookbook author Gizzi Erskine likes to make a pineapple glaze with pineapple juice and red currant jelly and a nice complement of spices, including clove and Scotch bonnet. I’ve adapted her recipe here to include more readily available powdered chilies. You could use pineapple juice and pineapple jelly for even more pineapple flavor, if you’d like.
No matter what, line your roasting pan with aluminum foil or use a disposable one. The glaze will stick to the bottom of the pan and cause a mess to clean. This recipe calls for baking the ham at 450 degrees, but if you have time and are worried about it drying out, you can cook it at a lower temperature, between 350 and 400, for a longer period of time.
Sealing the ham with aluminum foil keeps it moist while it heats in the oven, but you can take it off for the last 20 minutes if you like some caramelization on top of the ham. The time will vary depending on the size of the ham, but the inside of the meat should measure 140 degrees with a thermometer.
Spiced Pineapple Christmas Ham
The Christmas ham. I love it so much. I’ve written numerous ham recipes in my time — mango-glazed, pomegranate-glazed — if it’s got the combo of sweetness, tartness and spice, it’s going to be a winner. This recipe uses pineapple, and the tartness outweighs its sweetness. I think it cuts through the ham in the most brilliant way.
— Gizzi Erskine
1 (8 lb.) spiral-sliced, bone-in ham
3/4 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons red currant jelly
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or other powered chili (optional)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Put all the glaze ingredients in a pan and simmer until reduced to a syrupy glaze.
Place the ham in a large roast pan lined with aluminum foil. Pour and brush the glaze all over the ham and, if scored or sliced, into the corner of each diamond or slices. Seal the ham with another layer of aluminum foil. Roast for an hour, until sticky and caramelized. Check the ham several times and baste with any liquid that has gathered in the pan. You can leave the aluminum foil off for the last 15 minutes if you prefer a sticky sweet glaze on top.
Leave the ham to rest for 15 minutes if you want to eat it warm, or let it cool completely. Serves 14 as part of a buffet, with leftovers.
— Adapted from “ Gizzi’s Seasons Eatings: Feasts & Celebrations from Halloween to Happy New Year” by Gizzi Erskine (Mitchell Beazley, $29.95)