How Easter became associated with ham

Did you ever wonder how ham became a traditional centrepiece at Easter dinner in Canada?

This ham is without the usual pink colour that comes from preserving using some combination of water

Did you ever wonder how ham became a traditional centrepiece at Easter dinner in Canada?

“Its springtime popularity stems back prior to refrigeration when hogs were typically slaughtered in the fall and hams then cured over the long winter months,” says Mary Ann Binnie, manager of nutrition and food industry relations for the Canadian Pork Council. “Spring was the first opportunity our ancestors had to sample the freshly cured hams.”

In those days, bone-in hams were popular because there was the value-added feature of having a large bone attached to make a hearty soup for the family.

“You get a wonderful stock from a ham bone,” says Binnie.

She says another reason that ham is a popular staple is that it’s so lean. “A 75-gram serving only has about 94 calories and four grams of fat.”

Place a “ready-to-serve” or “fully cooked” ham in a shallow roasting pan and bake in a 160 C (325 F) oven for 10 to 15 minutes per 500 g (1 lb). Brush on glaze during the last 15 to 30 minutes of cooking. Allow the juices to settle by letting the ham rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

“Fresh hams and hams that have only been partially cooked must be fully cooked to 70 C (160 F) before serving,” says Binnie. “Look for the phrase ‘ready to cook’ or ‘cook before eating’ on the label.”

Here are two ham recipes from the Canadian Pork Council and a scalloped potato side dish for the holiday meal.

Whole Baked Ham

1 cooked smoked bone-in ham (about 5.5 kg/12 lb)

Whole cloves

Glaze

125 ml (1/2 cup) Dijon mustard

50 ml (1/4 cup) orange marmalade

50 ml (1/4 cup) brown sugar

30 ml (2 tbsp) bourbon or dark rum

Preheat oven to 160 C (325 F). If necessary, remove all skin, leaving a thin covering (about 5 mm/1/4 inch) of fat.

With a sharp knife, score fat in a diamond pattern into fat and insert cloves to decorate. Place ham in a shallow roasting pan, fattest side up, with 500 to 750 ml (2 to 3 cups) water. Cook for about 15 minutes per 500 g (1 lb), or until meat thermometer registers 60 C (140 F).

Meanwhile, mix remaining ingredients for the glaze. During last half hour of cooking, raise temperature to 180 C (350 F) and brush ham liberally with glaze. Add more water if bottom of pan starts to burn. Repeat glazing after 15 minutes.

When cooked, allow ham to rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Wine match: Dry Riesling.

Thyme and Honey Glazed Ham

1 fully cooked smoked ham, about 2.75 kg (6 lb)

Glaze

125 ml (1/2 cup) chicken stock

125 ml (1/2 cup) white wine

125 ml (1/2 cup) honey

1 bunch fresh thyme

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Beet and Horseradish Relish

3 medium beets, cooked, peeled and diced

15 ml (1 tbsp) white wine or cider vinegar

45 ml (3 tbsp) grated raw horseradish

2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt

Preheat oven to 160 C (325 F). Score surface of ham to allow for expansion, and bake for 3 to 4 hours, or until a meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the ham registers 60 C (140 F). After 2 hours of baking, begin glazing ham and baste frequently until it is done. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before carving to allow juices to settle.

Makes 12 servings.

Glaze: While ham is roasting, place chicken stock, wine, honey and thyme in a saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Strain out thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Relish: Using a hand blender or food processor, blend together beets, vinegar, horseradish and salt. Serve at room temperature as a relish with the ham.

Wine match: Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris.

Spicy Scalloped Potatoes

30 ml (2 tbsp) butter

30 ml (2 tbsp) all-purpose flour

550 ml (2 1/4 cups) warm milk

250 ml (1 cup) shredded havarti cheese

2 ml (1/2 tsp) each salt and dried oregano

1 ml (1/4 tsp) each ground cumin and pepper

1 kg (2 lb) round red or white or Yukon Gold potatoes (about 5), scrubbed

250 ml (1 cup) chunky salsa

50 ml (1/4 cup) drained pickled jalapeno pepper slices (optional)

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in milk and cook, whisking constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes or until beginning to boil and thicken. Remove from heat and whisk in cheese, salt, oregano, cumin and pepper until smooth; set aside.

Peel and thinly slice potatoes. Arrange one-third of the slices into greased 2-l (8-inch) baking dish. Spread with half of the salsa. Repeat layers once and layer remaining potato slices on top. Pour cheese sauce over top and around sides to cover evenly and reach bottom of dish. Sprinkle with pickled jalapeno peppers, if using.

Cover with foil or lid and bake in a 190 C (375 F) oven for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and potatoes are tender. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Wine match: Syrah.

Source: Ontario Potato Board.

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