You probably know a brine as a salty liquid that you let meat soak in to help tenderize and add flavor before cooking. Brines work for all different types of meat, including a traditional ham. One nontraditional ingredient that is often used in a ham brine is cola. With standard cola and some additional ingredients, you can create a brine for your ham that adds different dimensions of taste and texture.
A ham is part of the leg of a pig, and you can buy it already cooked, dry or wet cured or completely uncooked. If you plan on brining your ham with cola, buy it uncooked so you can go through the whole process from the start. A whole ham includes the butt and shank hams and they can weigh up to 20 pounds and come with the bone-in or removed. If this is your first attempt at using a cola brine, ask for a smaller, boneless ham so it is easier to manage.
Cola may be the main feature of your brine, but it shouldn't be the only ingredient. For a brine that delivers lots of flavor into the meat and does its tenderizing job, add kosher salt or table salt, bay leaves, garlic cloves and peppercorns to the cola. Once the brine is thoroughly mixed, place it and the ham into a large, resealable bag and set it into the refrigerator. Leave it alone for 12 to 24 hours before you bake it. You can also make a glaze with brown sugar and cola as the base to spread on the ham as it bakes for added flavor.
If your ham comes with a thick rind on top of it, which many uncooked hams do, slice into it before adding it to the cola brine. Use a serrated knife and make a crisscross diamond pattern about 1/4-inch into the rind, but not into the meat itself. After the brining process is over, pat the outside of the ham with a paper towel to remove excess brine, then bake your brined ham for 18 to 25 minutes per pound at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you're using a glaze, plan on brushing the ham every 45 minutes or so during the baking process.
Safely Cooked Through
Fresh ham should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F. Use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the ham to check the internal temperature. If the outside of your ham gets darker than you'd like and the inside still isn't hot enough, cover the ham with aluminum foil to slow down the browning, but keep the rest of it baking.
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