Holiday cooking adventures: Try a fresh ham


If you’re watching your sodium intake and looking for something different than a traditional ham for the holidays, you might want to try a fresh ham.

These are not easy to find, but worth the trouble if you look around. I ordered mine from a gourmet grocery store, Holiday Market in Royal Oak, Michigan. It was not cheap, but it is a great once-a-year treat. The ham comes from the hog’s hind leg and includes the shank end and the butt end. A fresh ham has not been cured or smoked and so is lower (note, I didn’t say low) in sodium than a traditional ham, which is injected with sodium and nitrates to preserve and flavor it. This ham tastes more like a high end, very flavorful pork roast. It has a beautiful flavor, beautiful color (not pink, but a light brown) and beautiful presentation. (If you click on the original recipe, you will see a link to a fuller explanation of hams and what they are about.)

A fresh ham (I used the shank end. Be sure to tell your butcher.), took a long time to make — about 4-5 hours cooking time — which means it is mostly for special occasions. Be sure to plan for it, especially if you only have one oven. The coating is simple. Basting is required and so is a meat thermometer if you want to cook this properly.

I tried this at Easter because my husband is on a low sodium diet. I thought I would have it again at Christmas, but we’re having turkey because he missed Thanksgiving dinner, thanks to his almost three-week-stay in the hospital. If I had my way I’d make this again. Everyone loved it.

Hope you enjoy it. If you decide to try it, share your experiences!

Here is the original recipe for Fresh ham as it appeared in Fine Cooking magazine.

Fresh ham with rosemary, garlic and lemon

For the ham
8-1/2 lb. bone-in fresh half-ham, preferably shank end, rind (skin) removed
1 medium lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
6 medium cloves garlic, halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine vinegar

For the pan sauce
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup lower-salt chicken broth
2 tsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. cherry jam

Prepare the ham
1) Set the ham fat side up in a large heavy-duty roasting pan. Use a sharp knife to score the fat in a 1-inch diamond pattern, cutting only about three-quarters of the way through the fat.

2) Peel the zest from the lemon with a vegetable peeler, avoiding the white pith. Put the zest, olive oil, rosemary, garlic, 1 Tbs. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper in a food processor and pulse to a coarse paste. Rub this mixture all over the ham. Cover the pan tightly with foil and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

3) Position a rack in the oven so that the ham will sit as high as possible but still have at least 2 inches head space for air circulation. Heat the oven to 350°F.

4) Keep the ham covered with the foil and roast for 3 hours. Uncover the pan and drizzle the vinegar over the ham, taking care not to wash off the coating. Continue roasting, basting every 15 minutes or so, until the ham is well browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the meat without touching bone registers 170°F (check in several places), 1 to 1-1/2 hours more. If the ham or drippings begin to brown too much, cover loosely with foil to prevent burning. Transfer the ham to a carving board to rest while you make the sauce.

Beginnings of pan sauce.

Beginnings of pan sauce.

Make the sauce
1) Pour the pan drippings into a bowl, let sit until the fat rises to the top, and then skim off the fat. Return the skimmed drippings to the roasting pan and set the pan over medium heat. Whisk in the wine, scraping up any particles stuck to the pan’s bottom. Whisk in the broth, add 1/2 cup water, and continue to boil until the liquid is reduced by one-third, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, use a fork to mash the butter with the flour in a small bowl or ramekin to create a thick paste. Whisk the cherry jam into the sauce, then add the butter paste in parts, whisking until the paste is fully dissolved and the sauce is simmering and thickened.

2) Carve the ham and serve with the sauce. Leftover ham will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Shank end of ham.

Shank end of ham.

nutrition information (per serving):

Size : per 7-3/4 oz.; Calories (kcal): 760; Fat (g): 54; Fat Calories (kcal): 490; Saturated Fat (g): 21; Protein (g): 57; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 26; Carbohydrates (g): 4; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 4.5; Sodium (mg): 680; Cholesterol (mg): 215; Fiber (g): 0;

Leave a Reply

Read previous post:
Healthy eating: Twelve ways to cook a lot of food quickly

Although I love cooking, it can be hard to cook a lot of food at one time, such as I...