A well-made ham is all but irresistible, with its balance of sweetness, salt and the savory flavor of the underlying pork. Your kids will enjoy helping you come up with new ways to use the meat, as it is versatile enough to serve hot or cold at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Whether it's prepared as a lavish meal or as leftovers, ham gives busy moms lots of options.
Modern hams are salted and cured primarily for flavor rather than for long-term storage. That means they can usually be enjoyed without boiling or soaking first. One of the easiest ways to cook a ham is to bake it, usually with a sweet or savory glaze on the outside to add flavor and help keep it moist. Jazz up a traditional honey and brown sugar glaze by mixing honey, mustard, apple cider vinegar and ranch seasoning mix and brushing it on just before baking. Baking your ham at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours keeps it moist and juicy, while giving you lots of time to prepare side dishes or have fun with your kids.
Ham in a Crust
Ham baked in a wrapping of bread dough is a regional specialty in many parts of Europe. The dough is either white or rye bread, depending on where the recipe originates. In either case, you'll need roughly a 1-pound loaf of bread dough for every 3 or 4 pounds of ham. The dough must be rolled into a large sheet and wrapped around the ham, then baked with the seams at the bottom. As the ham bakes, the bread absorbs its juices and flavor. When finished, pull the bread off the ham in pieces, and serve both together.
Boiling a ham is one of the most traditional cooking methods, dating back to the days before refrigeration when hams were much more heavily salted than they are now. Except for Southern-style "country" hams, it's not necessary to soak them overnight anymore before cooking. The finished ham will be milder in flavor than a baked ham, and less salty. The cooking water becomes infused with ham flavor, and can be used as the basis for a tasty pea or bean soup. In New England, it's traditional to cook the accompanying vegetables in the ham water, flavoring them as they cook.
There are times when, as tasty as a baked ham is, it's just not practical to do one the traditional way. Whether it's too hot to have the oven on, or you're just concerned about energy consumption and conservation, the slow cooker can be your friend. Prepare your ham just as you would for baking, then put it in your slow cooker and forget about it for the rest of the day. When you're ready to eat, pull out the tender ham and serve it hot or cold with your favorite side dishes.
- "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen." Harold S. McGee, 2004
- "Professional Cooking." Wayne Gisslen; 2003
- Homemakers.com. Whole Ham Baked in Rye Bread Dough: Andrew Chase, April 2009
- "The American Woman's Cookbook, Wartime Victory Edition," Ruth Berolzheimer (Ed.), 1944
- Food Network: Slow Cooker Ham with Turnips
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