For many families celebrating Easter, the holiday calls for ham. While some home cooks like to keep it traditional, others may want to try recipes that go beyond the classic clove-studded ham covered in canned pineapple rings.
From glazes and garnishes to cooking methods and presentation, there are several ways to give ham an updated twist. We asked food experts from Taste of Home magazine and the National Pork Board to share a few of their favorite recipes, cooking tips and other ideas for your Easter feast.
One way to give Easter ham an update is to change up the glaze, said Pamela Johnson, director of consumer communications for the Des Moines-based National Pork Board. Instead of making a classic cola-glazed ham, Johnson likes to replace the cola with root beer.
Karen Berner, chief food editor at Taste of Home in Milwaukee, encourages cooks to experiment with different flavor combinations for glazes. Instead of a basic brown sugar glaze, consider apple cider, apricot mango, maple peach or honey chipotle.
Unlike other cuts of meat, there's no need to sear ham on the stovetop first before baking to get a caramelized crust. “A simple glaze will do all the work,” Berner said.
Score the ham with a sharp knife before adding the glaze; thin cuts over the surface will help the ham absorb more of the mixture.
Look to ethnic cuisine for inspiration. One of the great things about ham, Johnson said, is that it easily takes on a variety of flavor profiles.
Give ham an Asian twist with hoisin sauce, five-spice powder, grated fresh ginger, garlic and sesame oil. For a Latin-inspired glaze, use canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
Other possibilities include Cajun, Mediterranean and Caribbean flavors. Sauces, relishes, fruit salsas and chutneys are other ways to liven up your ham, Johnson said.
HAM MEETS GRILL:
Easter ham is usually baked, but grilling is a great way to boost its flavor and add a touch of smoke. Recipes for grilled ham vary, but most call for indirect medium-low heat, with the lid closed, until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees.
Ham steaks also taste great when grilled, Johnson said, and their size makes them ideal for couples or small families.
LOW AND SLOW:
Instead of digging out a roasting pan, break out your slow cooker. It's easy, fuss free and produces a moist, tender ham. You also free up your oven for side dishes when you cook ham in a slow cooker.
“For a small gathering, you can simply take a 3-pound, fully-cooked boneless ham and place into a 5-quart slow cooker,” Berner said. “A flavor-packed glaze you use on your ham while cooking for about 4-5 hours can be turned into a sauce on the stovetop with just a little added cornstarch to thicken slightly.”
For garnishes, Berner suggests using ingredients that are found in the glaze. Place a few halved fresh apricots, orange slices or halved small pears around your ham platter. You can also arrange roasted asparagus spears or whole green beans around a serving tray for an attractive presentation.
Ham is a versatile main dish that complements a variety of sides, said Johnson, who likes to serve asparagus, carrots, roasted red potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
Green beans and broccoli are some of Berner's favorites. She makes roasted green beans sprinkled with grated lemon zest and fresh torn basil. Steamed broccoli gets tossed with sauteed garlic, diced red pepper, fresh minced parsley and lemon pepper.
EASTER MADE EASY:
No time for a big dinner? Busy hosts who prefer something more casual and low key may want to throw an Easter potluck instead of a formal sit-down meal. You provide the ham and drinks and have your guests bring the sides. And don't forget dessert.
“Go ahead and make that creamy coconut cake you know your guests will love,” Berner said. “You can bake the cake layers up to five days ahead, wrap airtight and refrigerate.”
On Easter, finish the cake with whipped-cream frosting, sweetened flaked coconut and fresh strawberries.
Recipe: Baked Ham with Honey-Chipotle Glaze
• 1 fully cooked bone-in ham (8 to 10 pounds)
• 2¼ cups ginger ale
• 1 cup packed brown sugar
• 3 tablespoons honey
• 4½ teaspoons cider vinegar
• 4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
• ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
Preheat oven to 325 F. Place ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Score the surface of the ham, making diamond shapes ½-inch deep. Bake, uncovered, 1½ hours.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine ginger ale, brown sugar, honey and vinegar. Bring to a boil; cook until glaze is reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat. Stir in remaining ingredients; cook 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Set aside 1 cup for sauce.
Baste ham with some of the remaining glaze. Bake 30 minutes longer or until a thermometer reads 140 F, basting twice with additional glaze. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with reserved sauce. Yield: 16 servings.
— Taste of Home
Bourbon Baked Ham
• 1 bone-in fully cooked spiral-sliced ham (7 to 9 pounds)
• 1 cup honey
• ½ cup bourbon
• ½ cup molasses
• ¼ cup orange juice
• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Place ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Score the surface of the ham, making diamond shapes ½-inch deep. Bake at 325 F for 2 hours.
In a small saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients; cook and stir until smooth. Brush ham with some of the glaze; bake 20-25 minutes longer or until a meat thermometer reads 140 F, brushing occasionally with remaining glaze. Yield: 15 servings.
— Taste of Home
Ham with Spiced-Cherry Sauce
• 1 boneless fully cooked ham (6 pounds)
• 2 jars (12 ounces each) cherry preserves
• ½ cup cider vinegar
• ¼ cup packed brown sugar
• ¼ cup water
• ½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice
Place ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Score the surface of the ham, making diamond shapes ½-inch deep. Bake, uncovered, at 325 F for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the preserves, vinegar, brown sugar, water and spices. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until sugar is dissolved.
Pour ¾ cup sauce mixture over the ham. Bake 20-30 minutes longer or until a thermometer reads 140 F. Serve with remaining sauce. Yield: 18 servings.
— Taste of Home
Apricot Baked Ham
• 1 fully cooked bone-in ham (5 to 7 pounds)
• ½ cup apricot preserves
• 20 whole cloves
• 3 tablespoons ground mustard
• ½ cup packed light brown sugar
Place ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Score the surface of the ham, making diamond shapes ½-inch deep; insert a clove in each diamond. Combine preserves and mustard; spread over ham. Pat brown sugar into apricot mixture. Bake at 325 F for 1¾ to 2¼ hours or until a thermometer reads 140 F. Yield: 10-14 servings.
— Taste of Home
Spiced Grilled Ham with Citrus Glaze
• 6 to 7 pound fully cooked bone-in ham, trimmed
• 1 tablespoon ground coriander
• 1 tablespoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon cumin
• ½ teaspoon cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
• ¼ cup lemon marmalade (If you can't find lemon marmalade, substitute another citrus marmalade.)
• 2 tablespoons orange juice
• 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-hot (375 to 425 F). Prepare the grill for indirect cooking. For a gas grill, turn off the center burner. For a charcoal grill, bank the coals on two sides; place a drip pan under the grate between the heat sources.
Score a diamond pattern into the ham, about 1/8-inch deep into any fat. In a small bowl, combine the coriander, paprika, cumin, cinnamon and cloves. Rub the spice mixture over all sides of the ham. Place the ham, flat side down, in the center of the grill over the drip pan. Cover and cook, adding briquettes to a charcoal grill as necessary to maintain the heat, until the internal temperature of the ham reaches 140 F, 1½ to 2 hours or 15 to 18 minutes per pound.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the marmalade, orange juice and sugar. Brush the marmalade mixture over the ham. Cover and grill 5 minutes, until the glaze is lightly caramelized. Remove the ham from the grill, transfer to a cutting board and let rest 15 to 30 minutes. Serves 12-14.
— National Pork Board
Thyme-Basted Ham with Roasted Grapes
• 6 to 8 pound bone-in fully cooked ham, trimmed
• ½ cup grape jelly
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (½ stick), cut into 4 to 6 pieces
• 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
• 3 cups grapes (red, green or a combination)
• 4 shallots, halved lengthwise and cut into ¼-inch slices
Preheat oven to 325 F. Position rack in lower third of oven. Place the ham flat side down in a large shallow roasting pan and score a diamond pattern about 1/8-inch deep into any fat. Season with pepper and bake for 1½ hours.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the jelly, butter and thyme, whisking occasionally until the jelly and butter melt together and the mixture comes to a gentle boil, 1 to 2 minutes. Cover and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the grapes and shallots. Set aside.
Baste the ham with the jelly mixture. Continue baking, basting with the jelly mixture and/or pan juices about every 15 minutes. When the internal ham temperature reaches 120 F, add the grapes and shallots to the roasting pan, stirring to coat with the pan juices. Continue baking and basting until internal temperature reaches 140 F, 15 to 18 minutes per pound total cooking time. Remove the ham from the oven, transfer to a cutting board and let rest 15 to 30 minutes. (If the grapes and shallots aren't tender yet, return the roasting pan to the oven.)
Slice enough ham to serve and arrange on plates or a platter. Season the roasted grape, shallot and pan juice mixture with pepper and spoon some on top of the ham. Serve the remaining grape mixture on the side. Serves 15-20.
— National Pork Board