For many families it is tradition to bake ham for Easter so I thought I’d share the country ham recipe that I have used for many years. It’s very simple and comes from a cookbook that was originally published in the 1920s and then updated in the 1950s. Back then you could still buy a ham that was not fully cooked. I think pretty much every ham you will see in the supermarket these days is already fully smoked and cooked and just requires reheating, however, I still follow this recipe as written because doing so brings down the saltiness of the meat. We prefer it that way.
First you’ll need to buy a ham. And you may think they are all the same, but they are not.
Most meat distributors (I guess that’s what you’d call them) brine their hams by injecting them with a curing solution of water, salt, and sugar. Most also contain phosphates and nitrites as well. Be aware if anyone in your dinner party has an allergy or sensitivity to those.
The amount of water that is in the ham determines its grade, and you’ll find the grade listed on the label.
If it just says “Ham,” it is the highest grade of ham available. It will have the same texture and almost the same flavor as a pork chop. It’s not common to buy this kind of ham for a ham dinner so most supermarkets don’t even carry it. It’s also very expensive.
If it says “Ham in natural juices,” it’s a bit of a lie. Those juices are actually added water, which I guess is natural enough, just not natural to that ham. These hams are good and up there with the most popular. They have a good taste and texture and that extra water that was added helps maintain the juiciness of the meat if you were to simply bake it. We aren’t going to do that with this recipe though.
“Ham, water added” means that the percentage of added water in this grade will be stated on the label (usually in fine print). A ham that says “water added–15%” means it weighs 15% more than its raw weight because they’ve added that much water.
“Ham and water product” are the ones I would avoid. If the amount of water exceeds 50%, the ham must be labeled “water and ham product,” since there is more water by weight than meat. That means more than half of what you are paying for is just fluid that will drip away. The price per pound is cheaper, yes, but you are not actually getting what you are paying for. Go for the next grade up if you can.
I prefer to buy ham labeled ham in natural juices. But any of these will work just fine.
You will also need a can of chunk or ringed pineapple in juice, some whole cloves, and brown sugar.
Optional: Soak ham over night in cold water. Drain, and rinse. Then place in a stock pot of boiling water then lower to simmer and cook for 25 minutes per pound. This is where you will reduce that saltiness.
Lift out of pot and remove the thick rind (but not all the fat beneath) that may remain on the ham. Score the entire ham in a diagonal pattern.
Stud each diagonal with a clove.
Drain pineapple juice into a bowl and mix with brown sugar. Pour over the ham. Then sprinkle additional brown sugar all over the ham as well.
Optional: Place pineapple rings all over ham before putting in the oven. OR blend pineapple chunks with the brown sugar to make a thicker glaze.
Roast uncovered for 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees F., basting as desired with the pan drippings. It will turn a nice caramelized color and give a pleasant sweetness to the ham. The cloves give it a bit of a counteracting bite. Together it is pure gloriousness.
The tradition of serving ham with peas began because peas are typically planted in the ground as soon as you can move a bit of soil to bury the seed. They grow even with snow still on the ground and often times were ready for picking right around the same time as Easter dinner prep. Some years I grow mine. Other years I don’t. Either way, I still keep the peas with the dinner just because of the tradition of it.
This year I’ll be doing the same but I’m swapping out mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes. We enjoy the flavor of the cauliflower more than plain potatoes.
Watch for my old-fashioned Easter post for more fun old-time recipes! And may all of you who celebrate Easter have a happy and blessed holiday.