Glazed hams were always in cartoons, not in real life. They were always in the fridge when Warner Brothers cartoon characters were pilfering supplies. Big beautiful joints studded with pineapple and cherries carted off by hungry mice.
I'm sure they were a part of our family's Christmas spread. They didn't seem to leave an impression on me.
However, I vividly recall glazing my first ham as a professional chef. I had approached the task with little enthusiasm and just followed the chef's instructions. When it came out of the oven I came a little unhinged. I spent the rest of the afternoon stealing bits of caramelized fat from around the edges.
From that day forward I've always made a glazed ham for Christmas. The process used to start when I chose a ham to purchase. Now it begins when I take delivery of a raw, bone in rear leg of pork.
Making it from scratch is not only satisfying, it also tastes a lot better. I find most commercial hams are too salty. Hopefully you'll try and make one and then agree that this recipe rules completely.
I use Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's brine recipe from Charcuterie though the technique I use to cure, smoke and cook it has developed from trial and error.
Glazed Christmas Ham
8l of water
700g sea salt
720g brown sugar
84g Pink Salt #1
1 x fresh bone in ham (buy the size that suits your needs and take note of the weight. You'll be curing it for 1 day per kg)
To make the brine, combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to the boil to dissolve the ingredients. Cool completely.
You'll need to remove the aitch bone from the ham. This is a part of the pig's pelvis. Carefully and patiently follow the contours of the bone with your knife till you can pull it free from the flesh. You will eventually expose the ball joint. Cut through the tendons that attach it to the aitch bone and slowly pull the aitch bone free as you cut. There is another part of this bone that enters the flesh of the ham further over from the ball joint. Patiently follow the contour of the aitch bone and free it from the flesh. See the photos below for visual advice.
Massage from the knuckle to the ball joint with your thumbs to squeeze the blood out of the artery and then beat on the skin side of the ham with a rolling pin to loosen the flesh and get it ready to take on the brine.
You will need to make small incisions in the skin as if you were studding it with herbs for roasting, This facilitates injecting the ham with brine.
Injecting the ham with brine is necessary otherwise you will have uncured meat next to the bone. So at this point get out your food grade syringe and start pumping the ham full of brine, paying particular attention to the thickest parts.
When you are done the ham will be turgid and firm. Put it into a large non-reactive container (I use a big clear plastic storage bin) and pour the remaining brine all over it. It needs to be submerged completely. Place a chopping board on top of it with a weight such as food cans holding it down and whack it in your fridge. There's no way around the fact that a ham is big and most fridges are not, so you may need a bit of reorganizing and spacial engineering to pull this off. The other option is to get a small ham or a half ham. Your butcher might be able to help you out here. His band saw will be a lot better at sawing a ham in half than a kitchen knife and sheer commitment.
Leave the ham in the brine for 1 day per kg. When the time is up, take out the ham and dry it thoroughly with towels. Place it back in the fridge overnight so its surface dries and is nice and receptive to the smoking process.
I cold smoke my hams overnight using my pro Q cold smoke generator and apple wood sawdust.
Now it is smoked you need to cook it. I have the luxury of an industrial combi oven at work in which I can steam my ham, but I have successfully baked it at home at 120c for a few hours. You need to cook it until a thermometer probing next to the bone reaches around 55c. When you rest it the temperature will keep rising and take it over the 60c target.
Cool the ham overnight. It will be just fine hanging out in your fridge for a few days until you're ready to glaze it.
Over the years I've tried lots of different glazes but these days I keep it real simple. I mix equal amounts of mustard and brown sugar until it's a paste and apply this to my scored and clove studded ham. Then I whack it in a 170c oven until it looks caramelized and beautiful (about 30-40 mins).
Serve it up to family and friends, have a little nibble, get drunk, dance all night and then the next morning before you clean up, carve off a silken pile of it and have it in a fresh baguette with Comte cheese. Sit outside in the sun and eat.