Along with the first blooming crocus, the sighting of the first robin, pro baseball training camps, and the tapping of maple trees for their sap, an Easter ham is one of the most celebrated and classic signs of spring.
In days gone by, hams were cured, smoked, and dried by hanging in the fall, wintering over until early spring when the first emerging hams were brought to table.
And the crowning touch to any magnificent ham is a complementary glaze that counterbalances the fundamental flavors of a smoked ham. It is the point of departure that distinguishes one ham from the next.
In creating a glaze, keep in mind these 3 basic ideas:
- All glazes contain some form of sugar, whether it is brown sugar, honey, fruit juice, fruit preserves, maple sugar, soda pop (cola or root beer), or even pomegranate syrup. The sky’s the limit. The sweetness helps to undercut any saltiness in the meat.
- Some type of acid helps to balance the richness of the meat. Vinegar, mustard (which usually contains vinegar), wine, or citrus juice are all eligible components.
- Additional flavorings or aromatic spices create the individual personality of the glaze. Ginger, cloves, anise, bourbon or whiskey, beer, or cranberries are all good anchor ingredients for a unique ham glaze.
The glaze is best when applied within the last 30 to 45 minutes of cooking time. That is enough to allow the sugars in the glazes to caramelize on the surface of the ham without burning or scorching. A glaze does not penetrate the meat, but adds flavors notes to the outside layer to form a slightly crunchy crust on the ham.
Do you glaze your Easter ham? What are your favorite glaze ingredients? What’s the most unique glazed ham you’ve ever had?