One of the prime times of the year for serving ham is upon us this Easter weekend. Since almost all supermarket hams are sold fully cooked, you may ask, “Why bake a ham?” The answer is fourfold: to warm it through, to remove excess moisture and concentrate flavors, to improve texture, and to allow for adding flavors by means of a glaze, says meat expert and author of The Great Meat Cookbook Bruce Aidells, who contributed this recipe to Real Food. Aidells likes to use a glaze that will also produce a simple pan sauce that guests can spoon over each ham slice.
If you have any ham leftover, it’s always good in ham and Swiss sandwiches, added to macaroni and cheese, scrambled with eggs or made into split pea soup. And you don’t need a holiday to bake a ham—not only do you get to enjoy the initial dinner, but those leftovers make additional quick-and-easy meals anytime. A bonus? The sweet, smoky aroma while it bakes.
Baked Ham with Maple Mustard Glaze/Pan Sauce
Whole Ham Serves 15-20, Half Ham Serves 8-10
(Cut all the ingredients in half if baking a half ham.)
1 whole bone-in ham (14-18 lbs.) or boneless ham (12-16 lbs.)
Maple mustard Glaze/pan sauce:
2 to 4 c. apple cider
1 c. maple syrup
1⁄2 c. Dijon mustard
1⁄2 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 1⁄4 c. water
Position a rack in the lower part of the oven. Preheat oven to 325°F. Trim away any skin and external fat to a thickness of about 1⁄4 inch. Score the fat in a 2-inch diamond pattern over the top surface.
Place ham in a roasting pan. Add enough cider mixed with 3⁄4 cup of the maple syrup to cover bottom of pan with at least 1⁄2 inch of liquid. Place pan in oven. Estimate initial cooking time by calculating 10 minutes per pound.
As the ham bakes, continue to add cider to maintain depth of at least 1⁄2 inch. As the estimated cooking time approaches, begin monitoring the internal temperature of ham with an instant-read thermometer. When temperature reaches 120°F, remove ham from oven and increase temperature to 425°F.
Combine remaining syrup, mustard, and brown sugar to make a paste. Smear generously over top surfaces of ham using a large spoon or pastry brush. Return pan to oven until the glaze bubbles and begins to darken, 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove ham from oven and transfer to a carving board or large platter. Allow ham to rest for 20 to 40 minutes while you make pan juices into a sauce. While ham rests, its internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees, and the final internal temperature will reach 140°F to 145°F (the internal temperature of the ham will be about 130°F-135°F when you first remove it from the oven).
To make the pan sauce, pour pan juices into a metal mixing bowl and place it in the freezer. When fat congeals on the surface, after about 20 minutes, spoon it off and discard. Pour pan juices into a 2-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Taste sauce to determine if the flavors have concentrated to your liking. If not, continue to boil to concentrate the flavors to your taste. Stir in cornstarch and whisk for about 30 seconds to lightly thicken the sauce to the consistency of maple syrup. Set aside and keep warm.
Carve the ham and arrange slices on a platter. Pour sauce into a small serving bowl or gravy boat and serve with ham.
Glaze/Pan Sauce Variations
• Orange Glaze/Pan Sauce: Prepare as described in the basic recipe, replacing apple cider with orange juice and maple syrup with orange marmalade, and adding 1⁄2 teaspoon powdered ginger to glaze instead of brown sugar.
• Honey-Cinnamon Glaze/Pan Sauce: Prepare as described in the basic recipe, replacing maple syrup with honey and adding 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon to the glaze in addition to the brown sugar.