5 Delicious Glazes for Your Holiday Ham

5 Delicious Glazes for Your Holiday Ham
Graphic: Elena Scotti,Photo: Shutterstock,Photo: Getty Images

I love ham. When I was nine years old, my parents went away for the night on Boxing Day; when they returned, they found that someone had eaten most of a 9 kg leg of ham. I didn’t even understand how to slice it properly. I just shaved it from the top down. (One could say that I was ham-fisted in my approach.) In my haste to avoid blame, I didn’t think through my lies. Although I swore “it wasn’t me,” I was the only possible culprit — my grandmother, who had stayed with me, was a Seventh Day Adventist and did not eat pork.

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Serving an unglazed ham is unconscionable. Whether I’m at home in Jamaica or in Canada, I always make a spectacular clove-studded glazed ham, dressed with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries. (Yes, I love the 70s and 80s.) Glazes add flavour, colour, and texture, all of which are achieved through the sugar caramelizing on the skin. The best glazes are sweet, fruity, and tangy and a touch spicy — all flavours that balance the porcine saltiness.

Here are five (5) of my favourite Christmas ham glazes. Some have been used by my family for decades, and we have yet to tire of them. Each recipe will yield enough glaze for a 10 to 14-pound ham. (Oh, and once your ham is cooked and glazed, be sure to let it rest for 30 minutes before slicing.)

Orange Marmalade Glaze

Graphic: Elena Scotti,Photo: Shutterstock,Photo: Getty Images Graphic: Elena Scotti,Photo: Shutterstock,Photo: Getty Images

This classic and straightforward glaze appeals to a wide variety of palates. It’s bright with deep citrus flavour and slightly piquant, with just a pinch of fresh herbs to give it some nuance and bring it all together. This glaze will make any ham shine.

Ingredients:

  • Zest of one orange
  • 2 cups orange marmalade
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ⅛ teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • ⅛ teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Orange slices, whole cloves, and red maraschino cherries for garnish

Place all the ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan and cook over medium heat for eight to 10 minutes or until the glaze is thick and syrupy.

When there are 30-minutes left on the cooking time for your ham, remove it from the oven. Lacquer with the glaze, return to the oven, and repeat this process twice at 10-minute intervals. Once all the glazed has been used, the ham will look like a massive, meaty jewel.

Before serving, decorate with orange slices by affixing them to the ham with whole cloves, and stud the centres with red maraschino cherries.

Brown Sugar and Mustard Glaze

Graphic: Elena Scotti,Photo: Shutterstock,Photo: Getty Images Graphic: Elena Scotti,Photo: Shutterstock,Photo: Getty Images

This is the little black dress of ham glazes. It works with every possible side dish and saves the day when you’re pantry’s lookin’ lean.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Dijon mustard
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup real maple syrup (if you have only honey on hand, I find a ⅓ cup works better)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup grainy mustard
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Melt the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until the butter is browned and the air is fragrant with a nutty aroma. Hooray, you’ve just made a beurre noisette. (Note: while cooking, the butter will foam. Don’t panic. It’s a chemical reaction to the water evaporating, leaving the milk solids behind. The brown butter adds a deliciously complex and nutty flavour to the glaze.)

Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until all the sugar has dissolved and the glaze is syrupy.

Thirty minutes before the ham is done cooking, apply the glaze and glaze every ten minutes until your ham looks nice and bronzed.

Cranberry Glaze

Graphic: Elena Scotti,Photo: Shutterstock,Photo: Getty Images Graphic: Elena Scotti,Photo: Shutterstock,Photo: Getty Images

Finally — a use for those cans of cranberry sauce and jelly that have been languishing in the back of your cupboard since the end of November.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can whole-berry cranberry sauce (if you only have jelly, omit the brown sugar)
  • 1 can cranberry jelly
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

Throw all of the ingredients into a heavy bottom saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon. Slather over an almost-cooked (30 minutes from being done) ham and bake until the surface starts to bubble.

Pineapple Ginger Glaze

Graphic: Elena Scotti,Photo: Shutterstock,Photo: Getty Images Graphic: Elena Scotti,Photo: Shutterstock,Photo: Getty Images

For a bit of razzmatazz (and to stick it to Hawaiian pizza haters), slather your hunk of cured pork in this deliciously tropical glaze, and let your taste buds take an exotic Christmas vacation (since you aren’t able to).

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups pineapple juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup freshly grated ginger
  • ¼ cup tamari
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • Canned pineapple slices, whole cloves, and red maraschino cherries for garnish

Cook all the ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium-high heat until they have reduced to a syrupy consistency. Thirty minutes before the timer goes off, heavily glaze the ham. After coming out of the oven and resting, decorate with pineapple slices, cloves, and maraschino cherries.

Jamaican Sorrel (Hibiscus) Glaze

Graphic: Elena Scottie,Photo: Shutterstock,Photo: Getty Images Graphic: Elena Scottie,Photo: Shutterstock,Photo: Getty Images

Sorrel is a traditional Jamaican Christmas drink, also known as “bissap” in many African countries. It’s made from the sepals of the Roselle species of hibiscus. You can find dried and fresh sorrel at many Caribbean specialty grocery stores and many large online retailers sell packages of the dried version, which is what you’ll need for this recipe. (If you can’t be bothered to source the dried stuff and make a drink, you can buy jars of sorrel chutney and follow the cranberry glaze recipe.)

Ingredient for sorrel drink (step 1):

  • 2 cups dried sorrel
  • 5 cups water
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 6 pimento berries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ cup ginger, sliced
  • Zest of half an orange
  • Juice from half an orange

Ingredients for glaze (step 2):

  • Sorrel juice, the entire batch you just made
  • 1 cup of dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup fancy molasses
  • 1 teaspoon Scotch bonnet/habanero pepper, deseeded and finely chopped

Place the ingredients for the sorrel drink into a stockpot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and cover until cool (remove from hot burner if using an electric stove). Strain and pour into a heavy bottom stockpot, along with the rest of the ingredients.

Bring everything to a boil and reduce until the sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon. Liberally brush over an almost-finished (30 minutes form done), clove-studded ham enough times until it glistens like gloriously dark ruby.

Want to add a side to your ham? Check out this recipe for loaded chorizo potatoes.

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