As is usual in our household several weeks after Easter, Grillmaster D requested I make a ham for Sunday dinner last weekend. That might seem odd, given that ham is a traditional Easter dish and most households wouldn’t consider making two ham dinners so close together; however, I am not the one who typically hosts Easter and Grillmaster D seldom cares for any baked ham dish other than “my wife’s ham.”
Just like the Princess, who sticks her little nose up at anything but “Mommy sketties” and “Nona (her Italian grandmother) sketties” (the sole exception being the Spaghetti Di Bologna served by the culinarily formidable Pia Goff at Pia’s Trattoria here in Gulfport). Life with two discriminating eaters is certainly interesting at times.
Back to the pig. It occurred to me as I was making it that ham is a problematic dish for many people, chiefly because of the tendency to overcook it and dry it out. Most recipes direct you to toss your ham in the oven and blast it at 350°F for a while, but therein lies the problem: that is far too rough of a treatment for a piece of meat that is already fully cooked and does much better with a bit more TLC.
One of the best ways to keep a ham from drying out is to cook it (heat it, really) in an oven bag at a much lower temperature. You only crank the temperature up at glaze and coating time, to give the outside a nice gooey caramelized finish. Treated gently, a ham will pretty much look after itself.
I found a recipe some years ago for a simple ruby port and cherry glaze that was all right, but that I ultimately found kind of flat. I added some spicy mustard and a pinch of cloves to punch up the flavor, which was the perfect remedy, in addition to a brown sugar and mustard coating that brought everything together wonderfully. The finished product is juicy and tender, with a great caramelized glaze and beautiful presentation.
GLAZED BAKED HAM
1 bone-in half ham (7 to 10 pounds)
1/2 cup ruby port
1/2 cup organic black cherry preserves
1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon organic stone-ground spicy brown mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch freshly ground cloves
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry yellow mustard powder
Adjust oven rack to the lowest position and heat oven to 300°F. Unwrap the ham and remove the plastic disk covering the bone. Place ham in a large oven bag and gather so the bag fits tightly all around the ham. Place ham cut side down in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the ham comfortably. Secure the bag with the provided tie (you may cut off the excess if you like) and cut four slits in the top of the bag.
Bake the ham until the center registers 100°F on an instant-read thermometer, 1-1/2 to 3 hours (approximately 20 minutes per pound).
While ham is baking, make the glaze: simmer the ruby port in a small saucepan over medium heat until it is reduced to two tablespoons. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar is fully dissolved and the glaze is thick and syrupy (about 10 minutes). Remove from the heat and set aside.
Make the coating: mix the brown sugar and the dry mustard powder in a small bowl until fully combined.
Remove the ham from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Cut open the oven bag and very carefully lift the ham to pull it free, letting the juice run into the pan. Discard the oven bag. Pour or brush half of the glaze over the ham, then pat the coating mixture all over the exposed surface. Return the ham to the oven until the sugar melts and the glaze becomes very sticky and caramelized, about 15 minutes.
Remove the ham from the oven a final time. Pour the remaining glaze over the ham. Tent loosely with foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Transfer the ham to a cutting board; cut into thick slices and serve.