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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Jim Hillibish: Tips for your Easter ham

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  • In many households, the aroma of a fine ham baking is as Easter as the bunny who sits on a nest of eggs as a table centerpiece. This year, careful shopping may land you ham at less than $2 a pound.
    USDA national retail prices are $3.38 per pound for boneless and $1.82 for bone-in. This compares with $3.17 and $1.94 for last year. You’ll find a wide selection in most stores and some confusing labels to decipher.
    GRADES OF HAM
    Ham: This is the top grade with no added water.
    Ham, natural juices: The “juices” are water, no more than 10 percent of the weight. This is the most popular and available grade, according to federal inspectors. The water creates a fine texture and helps keep the meat moist.
    Ham, water added: More than 10 percent water by weight, often the most economical buy.
    Ham and water product: More than 50 percent water, the lowest and cheapest grade, expect shrinkage upon baking.
    SIZE AND CUT
    Hams are sold as whole or half: A half is plenty for up to 14 people. Figure on eight ounces per person. This gets tricky with bone-in hams as they contain less meat by weight. A pound per person probably is a safe bet here.
    Hams are sold as butts and shanks: The shank is most tender and flavorful but is difficult to carve due to the bone. The butt is easier to carve, but the meat will be more chewy.
    BONES ARE GOOD
    Boneless hams are convenient and often take only a few hours to bake. But bones and their marrow add flavor. Big plus: Use the bones for ham and bean soup later.
    BAKING TIMES
    Your best bet is to follow the instructions on the package as the different grades of ham require different times. USDA suggests baking to an internal temperature of 145 F. Bake with fat side up for moister meat.
    The usual scheme is to bake covered for three-fourths of the time and uncover to glaze and brown the top for the remainder. Allow the ham to sit for five minutes before carving to maximize juiciness.
    Bruce Aidells of Fine Cooking Magazine advises against buying a spiral-sliced ham. They can dry out in the oven. To help prevent this, they may be coated with a commercial glaze of varying quality. You want to make your own glaze.
    8-POUND HAM GLAZES
    MAPLE:
    1/2 cup maple syrup
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup apple juice
    1 T brown mustard
    Dash cinnamon and ginger
    Simmer ingredients for 10 minutes to melt. Baste on three-fourths cooked ham and finish uncovered to brown. Baste a second time for a sweeter flavor.
    Page 2 of 2 - HONEY ORANGE:
    2 T orange juice
    1/4 t ground cinnamon
    1/4 t ground cloves
    1 cup honey
    1/4 t almond extract (optional)
    Simmer ingredients for 10 minutes to melt. Baste on three-fourths cooked ham and finish uncovered to brown. Baste a second time for a sweeter flavor.
    CURRANT JELLY:
    1 cup currant jelly
    1/2 t dry mustard
    2 T prepared horse radish
    Dash of ground cloves or cinnamon
    Blend together over low simmer. See above for basting directions.
    Reach Jim at 330-580-8324 or jim.hillibish@cantonrep.com.
    On Twitter: @jhillibishREP
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