The freezer is a boon for the busy mom who wants to cook nutritious meals for her family and prepare them ahead of time to entertain relatives and friends. You can make appetizers and main dishes before an event, and then thaw and reheat them when the day arrives. However, the freezer has limitations; while it can maintain the current quality of food, it won't improve it. Some foods, including ham and cream cheese, don't freeze well. When you prepare ham and cream cheese rolls, refrigeration is the best preservation method.
Most hams, and in particular, sliced deli hams, are pre-cooked and cured. Curing is the salting and cooking process that creates the soft, succulent texture ham is known for. Freezing ham and other cured meats is not recommended, according to Clemson University Extension. Freezing causes ice crystals to form in the ham as well as on its surface that contribute to freezer burn. The salt in the meat causes the meat to spoil quickly after thawing. Freezing ham can also cause it to become discolored or alter the texture.
If you've ever frozen brick cheese, such as cheddar, you know that it tends to crumble after thawing, although you can successfully freeze shredded cheeses. Cream cheeses are even more difficult to freeze. Moisture in the cream cheese freezes, forming ice crystals. When you thaw cream cheese, the ice crystals alter its texture. Cream cheese, including Neufchatel, becomes weepy and mushy after freezing.
Even assembling and refrigerating ham rolls more than 24 hours in advance is a risky venture. Ham rolls prepared ahead of time often become soggy; instead, prepare the cream cheese mixture up to two days in advance and refrigerate it. Up to 12 hours before serving, spread the cream cheese mixture over the ham slices and roll them up. Cover and refrigerate. Better yet, enlist your kids to help make ham rolls. These easy-to-assemble party foods are simple enough for kids ages 8 and up to help prepare.
Ham rolls are a classic, versatile appetizer. The traditional recipe calls for minced onions, green pepper and drained pineapple -- kid-friendly flavors for a family party. Feel free to add your own spin. Try cilantro and chili peppers for south-of-the-border flair or add chopped pecans and dried cherries for a sophisticated rendition. Serve ham rolls on brightly colored plates with other kid-friendly party foods, such as homemade baked mac-n-cheese, cut fruit and fresh veggies with ranch dressing. If you pack an ice pack and use an insulated lunch box, ham rolls make a tasty alternative to sandwiches in your child's lunchbox.
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Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."