Cooking an Old-Fashioned Ham for Christmas

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In addition to being an aromatic culinary masterpiece, a glazed ham scored and dressed the old-fashioned way makes a beautiful centerpiece for the Christmas dinner table or sideboard. For ordinary dinners, you can roast, bake or boil the ham with little added preparation and finishing. Christmas festivities and the expectations of family and guests require more production. The appearance of the ham and something extra in the smoky, sweet and tangy flavor of the ham says the final result is worth all the work.

Choose a Ham, Preheat the Oven

Don’t be confused by all of the ham choices that confront you at the grocery store. Bypass the uncooked, uncured, dry-cured and country-style hams and choose a wet-cured bone-in ham that has been baked. The wet-cured ham has been injected with water, spices and sugar. The baked ham is fully cooked and less salty than the dry-cured variety. The injected spices and sugar give you a head start on achieving the perfect Christmas ham flavor. Wash the ham well under running water, set it aside on a clean platter or cutting board and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Honey-Mustard Glaze

You will need a sweet and tangy glaze for your Christmas ham. Prepare a homemade glaze if you want to stay strictly old-fashioned. The honey-mustard glaze is perfect for the cured, baked ham. Try mixing equal parts of both with brown sugar added gradually to achieve the right flavor and consistency. When you move on to dressing your ham, you may choose to use cloves. However, you can add ground cloves to the honey-mustard glaze instead. Your final glaze should be thick enough to stick to the ham, but not too thick to prevent spooning the glaze over the ham.

Scoring, Dressing and Glazing

Lay the ham in the cooking dish with the sliced side down and the fatty side up. Use a sharp knife to score the ham. Make crisscross slices in the top of the ham, leaving a diamond-shaped pattern. The scoring is an important part of the cooking and glazing process. If you’ve chosen not to add ground cloves to the honey-mustard glaze, place a whole clove in each place where the scored lines cross on the ham. Lay sliced pineapple rings around the top of the ham and place a fresh cranberry in the center of each ring. Spoon the honey-mustard glaze over the ham slowly, giving it time to drizzle into the scored lines.

Oven Time

Cover the ham with tented foil and place it in the middle of the oven. In a half hour, remove the foil and spoon the glaze from the bottom of the baking dish over the ham. Do this about two or three more times throughout the cooking time. Cook the ham for about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove the ham from the oven and allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes before moving it to a serving platter or carving.