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Hamapalooza

April 21, 2011

So much is going on these days. We are in the LAST TWO DAYS of the FUSSYlittleBALLOT, which just happens to coincide with Passover this year. And of course Easter is just around the corner.

In college I once dated a local girl just so I could get invited over to her parent’s for Easter dinner. Honestly, I can’t even remember her name anymore, but we had roast lamb and spinach pie, and it was delicious.

Despite that memorable experience, the dish that pops into my head when I think of Easter is ham.

Given that I don’t typically celebrate the holiday, I’m not sure if today’s thoughts on this great joint of meat are timely enough to have an impact on Sunday’s festivities. Regardless, there are four important things I want to make sure you know. The first two are local, while the remaining two will apply regardless of where you may live.

Happy Hams
I just heard from Flying Pigs Farms about their CSA’s Albany outpost. The last time I wrote about this amazing regional heritage pork producer, they didn’t have all their piglets in a row. Not knowing when and where a CSA pickup will be can be a real dealbreaker.

Well, here’s the news.

The pickup location will be on the SUNY-Albany Campus on Wednesdays from 4:30pm – 6:30pm. The CSA still runs from May 10 to July 12. But because of the delay perspective CSA members can still get the $20 early signup bonus through April 25th. For questions or to reserve your share, call farmer Mike at 518-854-3844 or send him an email at mike@flyingpigsfarm.com. And tell him The Profussor sent you.

German Hams
They may not be happy, but they are local and they are delicious. A meta-ham post would be incomplete if it didn’t mention Rolf’s Pork Store in Albany. They cure and smoke some magnificent German-style hams, and if you’ve never had them before, go in, let them know, and ask for a taste. They are very proud of their work, and with good reason.

I’d love it if Rolf’s could get together with a local producer of happy pork. Part of me wonders what would happen if I brought them a full Berkshire pork belly. Maybe I could convince the fine folks at Rolf’s to make me something special. This is a very dangerous line of thought.

Cold Hams
Officially, they are not cold hams but rather room temperature hams. However, there are some people who see the world purely in black and white. And for them, if something isn’t piping hot, it’s cold. For the record, I am not one of those people.

Anyhow, there will be a lot of people who will be buying one of the best commercially produced spiral-sliced hams available anywhere for the holiday. Naturally, I am talking about Honeybaked.

Before every major ham-eating holiday, I remind people, I implore them, I beseech them, to read the instructions that come with your honey-crust-blasted perfectly balanced ham. The instructions will tell you clear as day, DO NOT HEAT YOUR HONEYBAKED HAM. It’s supposed to come out of the refrigerator early and come up to room temperature.

While I cannot vouch for the food safety implications of these instructions, I can tell you this. Even gentile gentle heat in the oven will cause the ham to lose its precious moisture and melt the perfectly applied honey crust, for which you are paying a premium. Do not ruin your ham. If you require something different, I’d suggest the below.

Hot Ham
Ham is the among the easiest things to put on the table. It’s probably why one of my old bosses made sure to have one out for any social occasion. Plus, people love ham. The beauty is that it doesn’t have to be cooked, because all those smoked hams are already cooked through. It simply needs to be prepared.

Note: sometimes a fresh pork leg will be referred to as a ham, which is technically correct. Those are most commonly sold raw and do indeed need to be fully cooked. But if you can’t tell the difference between the two different forms, that’s a whole different post. If you are a true novice, let me know, and I’ll follow up with more detail.

Anyhow, this is how the boss-man taught me to prepare his delicious hot ham.

You start with an unsliced bone-in half ham. And the first thing you have to do is take some of the salt out. So you rinse it off in the sink, and you cover the joint in foil and sweat it in a 350-degree oven for 90 minutes.

Those accumulated juices can be discarded, and while you are waiting for the ham to cool, you can prepare a simple glaze. It can be as simple as a paste made from half of a box of brown sugar, 2T of Gulden’s spicy brown mustard and ½t of vinegar. It shouldn’t be runny, but if it is simply add more brown sugar.

The final phase is to score the outside of the ham, apply the paste, poke some cloves into the meat and finish the whole thing in the oven. It takes another 90 minutes at 350 degrees, but this time uncovered.

Surely I could write much much more about ham. But you’re busy. And you still need to vote for the FUSSYltitleBALLOT and send that email off to all your friends asking them to do the same. I totally understand. Thanks.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2011 12:14 pm

    Haven’t tried the Honeybaked Ham yet, since they are a bit on the expensive side, but probably will one of these days. We traditionally get our Easter (and other) ham from Oscar’s in Warrensburg NY (also home of the world’s largest garage sale). While we love to drive up and visit the store in person – always buying a little more than we planned on, since we love just about all of their products – you can also order on-line. Great local business – great food.

  2. April 21, 2011 8:35 pm

    Try bush ham this holiday season.

    http://tinyurl.com/3v62dsn

  3. Ellen Whitby permalink
    April 22, 2011 12:22 am

    Yes, it is Passover. I had a nice chat with a man from the Baker’s Hotline at King Arthur Flour about how to substitute oil for margarine. There wasn’t any unsalted margarine available in the Passover section at the supermarket and while I generally don’t use margarine, doing without baked goods is just unreasonable if I’m doing without baked goods. Which all means that your intro to ham is an absolute intro to this Jewish foodie. Thank you. I’ll be looking forward to hearing about your Easter HamFest after the holiday.

    Did you see the recent NYT Sunday Magazine article called Is Sugar Toxic? If you haven’t, here is your chance: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=is%20sugar%20toxic&st=cse.

    What are your thoughts? While I know you are not a food scientist (nor have you ever played one on TV), you have talked a lot about nutritional value (and lack of nutritional value) in different foods. I’d like to hear what you have to say.

    While you’re preparing your HamFest on Sunday, remember, don’t use leavening. After all, it is Passover.

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