Monday, December 23, 2013

The Best Honey Baked Christmas Ham Ever

So The Best Honey Baked Christmas Ham Ever probably sounds like a big claim, and I take the gravity of that statement very seriously. I know that ham is important, crucial to Christmas and Easter celebrations, sweet and crisp outside, moist and juicy inside, I know claiming to have produced the best honey baked ham recipe ever is a heady claim, but I swear this ham lives up to it.

In Cleveland, where I spent my childhood, holidays like Christmas and Easter require ham. It's as essential as the baby jesus in the nativity scene at Christmas, as ubiquitous as chocolate eggs at Easter. New Years Eve? Ham. Graduation party? Ham. Baby Shower? Better make it a ham. Ham is the king of holiday foods in Cleveland, and the king of holiday hams is Honey Baked Ham.

If you don't know (S didn't), Honey Baked Ham is a franchise of shops that specialize in smoked, sweet honey glazed hams. Around the holidays in Cleveland if you want one of these hams you better order it in advance, and be prepared to wait in a line that exits the shop and wraps around the block. People wait upwards of an hour in the cold Cleveland winter weather to procure one of these hams. They are hunks of spiral cut goodness. 

When I first set out to make a Honey Baked Ham copycat I did not have faith that I could produce something as delicious as the original. Surely the illustrious master of ham who creates their recipes must have some secret tricks up his sleeve. In the end though, it turned out remarkably simple to make a ham that not only tastes like Honey Baked Ham, it actually tastes BETTER than Honey Baked Ham. 

I settled for an 8.5lb ham and we had six people to dinner. I read online ahead of time to figure about 1/2lb meat per person eating, but six of us ate practically every bite of that 8.5lb ham! I had just enough leftover to make ham mac'n'cheese later in the week. One friend was so in love with this ham she expressed a desire to tear chunks of it from the bone with her bare hands. 

The fruit juice soaks in during the first cooking stage imbuing the ham with a sweet, lightly tangy flavor, and the brown sugar-honey glaze forms a crisp caramelized rind almost reminiscent of candied bacon.
Whether you make this ham (and you should), or not, may your holidays be jolly, bright, and full of delicious foods!

1 8-10lb Spiral Cut Ham
3/4 C Pear Juice
1 C Pineapple Juice
1/2 C Orange Juice
3/4 C Brown Sugar
3/4 C Honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
In a bowl mix the orange and pear juices with 2/3 C pineapple juice. In another bowl mix the brown sugar, honey, and remaining 1/3 C pineapple juice together.
Place ham in roasting pan cut side down and baste well with the pineapple/pear/orange juice combo. Place in oven and cook 30 minutes, basting with the fruit juices every 5 minutes.

After 30 minutes baste the ham heavily with the brown sugar/honey/juice combination, and continue roasting, basting with the brown sugar glaze every 15 minutes, until ham reaches 165 degrees in center, for my 8.5lb ham this took about 1.5 hours. 


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