Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Recipe Box: Sweet Baked Ham with Red-Eye Gravy

I'm not a big fan of pork (and boyo do I realize how many dirty jokes you could make out of that statement!) However, since pig in it's various forms is traditional food this time of year, I've experimented to see how I can make it so that I actually do like it. Even so this is a once a year recipe for me.

I prefer fresh ham over cured/salted/smoked or processed. Unfortunately it's getting harder and harder to find. This year I had to resort to a cured ham, but it was a success at the party anyway. I wouldn't use a fully cooked/ready to eat ham as I don't like the salty flavor.

The ingredients list is what I use for a 12 pound half-ham (serves about 10-12 people without leftovers). If you have a much larger or smaller ham, just eyeball the ingredients. They're not that precise because they don't really need to be. Don't stress out over which size can of pineapple, just dump it on in.


Whole or half ham (butt or shank end)

2 cups (1/2 of a fifth bottle, give or take) pineapple schnapps (can substitute pear or apple if you can't find pineapple). Look for schnapps with natural flavoring. Don't use things like apple pucker with all artificial flavor and color or trust me, it will be gross (and a funny shade of purple).

1 can/1 cup of crushed pineapple with juice
1 can/8-10 slices of pineapple with juice
1 bottle red maraschino cherries with juice
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup whole cloves
1 whole Cinnamon stick


Place the ham in a large roasting pan (cut end down if using a half-ham)

Poke the cloves. (my this post is just full of dirty statements!) Push the sharp end of each whole clove into the ham until you have a pattern of dots spread approx. 1/2 to 1 inch apart over the entire surface (not the cut end if you're using a half-ham). Think Pinhead from Hellraiser if you need a visual. If you get your cloves from a whole foods or organic store they will generally be larger, stronger, tastier and easier to work with than the bottled type.

Use wooden toothpicks to tack maraschino cherries onto the ham, then hang the pineapple slices from the toothpicks (this looks impressively Dickensian when it's finished).

Dump the rest of the pineapple, maraschino cherries, Cinnamon stick and brown sugar over the top of the ham. Don't drain the juices first, just throw it all in. Pour the liquor over everything.

Cover the roasting pan. If the cover won't go on because of the size of the ham, make a "tent" from aluminum foil that peaks over the top of the ham and is crimped onto the inside edge of the roaster. Don't leave any gaps for steam to escape, but remember that you'll need to get in to baste. The point is to trap the condensation while it's cooking so that the ham does not dry out.

Bake at 135 degrees for approx. 35 minutes for each pound (i.e. 6 hours for a 12 pound ham) Yes, this means it'll be in the oven all day! Baste at least every hour, turning the ham if possible.

Uncover and bake an additional 1/2 hour to 45 minutes, baste/spoon the juices liberally over the ham every 15 minutes.

Serve! Remove the toothpicks (the pineapple should stick on it's own at this point) and either cut off the skin or remove the cloves before serving.

Red-Eye Gravy:

Stir up the ham drippings at the bottom of the roasting pan.
you can use a spoon, baster or large-hole sieve to separate the juices and drippings from the fruit. Set aside the fruit to serve as a side dish.
Make a pot of very strong coffee. Add 1/4 cup coffee for each cup of liquid and drippings to a pot on medium-low heat.
Add flour a tablespoon at a time (or corn starch 1 tsp at a time dissolved in hot water).
Stir constantly until gravy thickens. This makes a sweet and savory gravy that goes well with ham and sweet potatoes.


The perfect use for leftover ham from this recipe is to use it, bone and all, as a base for soup. I do bean soup, but it would work as a base for potato or split-pea as well.

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