Thursday, October 28, 2010

Winter Solstice Ham

For years, even decades, I have made this ham every Christmas holiday season.  We call it Winter Solstice Ham because originally I made it for a Winter Solstice party we hosted.  Now, I just make it for Christmas each year.  We slice it paper thin and what we don't eat on Christmas Eve is saved/frozen for use throughout the coming months.

The ham for this should be a bone-in ham - not spiral-cut, honey-basted, in a can, or otherwise manipulated, but a regular, old-fashioned ham.  I'm sure the original recipe (which came from the south) used a country ham but those aren't readily available in the Pacific Northwest, so I use a smoked ham.


Whole ham, usually 15-17 pounds (you can use smaller pieces, but be sure there is a bone)
3-4 quarts of ginger ale (not diet)
Brown sugar
Sweet wine (Madeira or Marsala)

Fill a large stock pot or other container into which the ham will completely fit with water (leave room for the ham!).  Heat the water to just about boiling and add the ham.  Let it boil for 10-15 minutes.  This step gives the ham a good cleaning and removes excess salt from the outside.  Remove ham and discard water.  NOTE:  You might find it easier to ladle out the water at least partially before trying to remove the ham.  Be careful!

Place ham back in pot and fill with ginger ale (not diet ginger ale).  Cover the top loosely.  Bring to a full rolling boil and boil for 30 minutes.  The ginger ale helps bring out the flavor of the ham.

Prepare a spot for the pot with the ham in it to steep.  I use several layers of newspaper on the floor of the kitchen, out of traffic, but you could also put the newspapers or towels on a kitchen counter.  Put the ham (still in the pot with the ginger ale) on top of the papers and wrap with blankets or towels.  Let sit for 10 to 14 hours, depending on the size of the ham.  A 12-13 pound ham requires 10 hours.  I usually just let it sit overnight until I'm ready to deal with it again.

The ham will still be slightly warm after uncovering.  Remove the bone.  This is best done while the ham is warm.  My husband does this and it usually requires some kind of cut in the ham (be neat about this), despite the original recipe saying parts of the bone could be "wiggled out."

Remove skin but do not cut any of the fat from the ham.  After the bones have been removed (save them for soup), pack the cavity with brown sugar.  Tie ham tightly with twine, using enough to hold the ham together.  Score fat lightly.

Place ham in a heavy roasting pan with the fat side up.  Place pan in preheated 400 degree oven and cook for 15-20 minutes, basting often with sweet wine (Madeira or Marsala work well).  Do not overcook.  The purpose of this step is to make the fat sizzle and get crisp.  Remove from the oven and cool.  Refrigerate until thoroughly cool.  Slice thinly.  We use a slicer, but an electric knife or a very sharp long knife would also work.  If you want thicker slices for dinner, that's fine, but cut some thin slices as well for sandwiches or to use in omelets, scrambled eggs, or souffles, as well as other uses.

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