One of the good things about the retail godlings rushing us into the Christmas season early is the early appearance of Christmas hams in the grocery store dirt cheap. Everybody thinks cooking ham is hard. There’s a whole honey baked industry based on this myth. But I absolutely positively swear to you, it’s not. In fact, it’s so easy, I cook ham in the middle of the work week, serve it Southern classic with green beans and macaroni pie (baked mac & cheese for you foreign folk) for dinner, eat sandwiches on it the rest of the week, then make pea & ham soup on the weekend. It’s so easy, this barely even counts as a recipe. Now I know it’s possible to make this process complicated as hell. The very first ham I ever baked, I used a Martha Stewart recipe that called for everything from sliced pineapple to Manischewitz. It took all day long, and it looked beautiful – I could have easily put it on a fancy platter and set it on the table. Ever tried to carve a ham on a fancy platter on the table? This version isn’t nearly as pretty, but I promise you, it tastes every bit as good.
1 bone-in, fully cooked ham, whatever size you want (you can use pre-spiral-sliced if you want, but it dries out really quickly; I have an electric knife and prefer to slice my own)
1 large Granny Smith apple (or two if you have a monster-sized ham)
12 whole cloves (buy one box and use it for the next ten years; they don’t seem to go bad)
Enough honey to drizzle over the whole ham, about three tablespoons (those little squirt bottles are easiest)
1 can of Coke (or 1 cup)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, move the oven racks down to the bottom two slots to create a big cavity.
Line a pan big enough to hold your ham with aluminum foil. I use an old rectangular cake pan that I don’t use for anything else; cooking ham can ruin a pan if you’re not careful because of all the sticky stuff. Unwrap your ham and remove any little plastic bits the packagers thought it prudent to stick on (there’s usually a weird little cap on the end of the bone). Throw away any pre-packaged glazes that came with it – they’re sticky, messy, and taste revolting.
Put the ham on its side in the pan. Halve your apple or apples and use the halves to prop up your ham in the pan – a little wobbling is okay, but you don’t want it rolling over on you as you take it in and out of the oven. Stick your cloves into the outside rind of the ham, just randomly, but you don’t need more than 12, and using exactly 12 makes it a lot easier to know you’ve gotten them all out after the ham is cooked. (Ask Lexx Christian sometime about the joy of biting into a cooked whole clove.) Drizzle on the honey. Pour the Coke over the whole thing. Cover it up with more foil and seal it up around the edges of the pan by crumpling it – you’re not vacuum packing, just holding in as much steam as possible.
Put it in the oven and bake for 10 minutes per pound. Take it out, let it cool until you can slice it without it disintegrating (about 15-20 minutes), take the cloves out, and have yummy Christmas dinner food on a Tuesday night.
And by the way, if you want the pretty presentation, that’s not really hard, either. After you’ve propped your ham in the pan, take a sharp knife and make a series of cuts through the rind on the diagonal about an inch to two inches apart in one direction, then the other to create a diamond pattern. Take canned pineapple slices and pin them to the ham with your cloves. Pin a maraschino cherry at the center of each pineapple ring. Drizzle with honey, bathe in Coke, and bake as above. Just seriously, when you’re serving, watch out for those cloves.