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Unlike turkeys, hams are usually not frozen. They are most often found in the meat section of the supermarket, although there is a substance that proclaims itself ham in the canned meat department (be safe and open with a can opener, not a knife). We won’t go there.
You can buy hams fully cooked or you can buy them more or less raw. The reason I use the phrase “more or less” is because ham is smoked before it comes to the market. The smoking may not meet the requirements of a cooked ham, but it does do a little towards cooking.
If you buy your ham fully cooked, chances are good that the preparation method includes flavoring. Before you start preparing any flavoring for it, you may want to give it a taste test. The last thing you want on your holiday table is an enter with clashing flavors.
If your ham is not fully cooked, then you are in charge of flavor. The first thing you will need to do, after unwrapping it, is check to see if there is a plastic ring around the bone. It is not always put there, but it is definitely not something you want to bake your ham with.
The next step is to score the fat areas. This is done by slicing diagonal lines about a half inch deep, first right to left and then again left to right. This will allow your flavorings to reach the meat below.
There are plenty of sauce options, but the one our family uses the most consists of yellow mustard (the hot dog variety) and brown sugar. The ration is one part mustard to two parts brown sugar, but that can be altered to suit your tastes. Some people prefer a stronger mustard flavor.
After you have spread the sauce on the ham, pressing it into the slices, it’s time for one more flavoring. Place one whole clove in each cross section of the fat scoring. This adds another spice element to the ham.
It’s now time to stick the ham in the oven. For safety’s sake, you’ll want to bring the internal temperature up to 165 degrees. Don’t measure the temperature near the bone, because it will give you a false reading. The estimated time is fifteen minutes for every pound the ham weighs.
When you get the ham out, don’t slice it right away. Like any meat, this can cause the juices to run out. You’ll have a big mess and a drier ham if you do that. Wait at least twenty minutes before slicing.
Once you’re done with the ham, don’t toss the bone. It is a really great flavoring for bean soup. Even people who don’t care a lot for beans can be tempted when a real ham bone is used.
As you can see, cooking a ham is not very difficult. It does take a little time, but most of that can be spent on preparing the rest of the meal you are planning.
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