Ham Surprises

April 20, 2011

We’re doing Easter dinner backwards on From China Village – covered dessert yesterday, ham today!

In America, when you’re planning Christmas dinner or Easter brunch, you go get a ham. And when you go get that ham, it’s already cooked, spiral cut, and you whack the glaze on and warm it in the oven.

So when I decided, the first year we lived in Ireland, that I was going to host Easter dinner for my brand new in-laws, that is the kind of ham I was expecting. Cooked. Ready to go. Guaranteed yummy.

And that is not what I ended up with. Here’s the story of what I got. {It got a little long, but bear with me, there’s a tasty recipe at the end!}

When I first got to Dublin, I didn’t drive. I didn’t know how to drive a standard car, I was nervous about driving on the left side of the road, and I didn’t know how to get anywhere. Michael attempted to teach me once, the first week I was here, and it ended in tears and yelling. I’ve since been told by many, many people, that having your husband teach you to drive a car is a terrible, terrible idea. That is information I wish someone had mentioned before I we got in the car.

Finally, just before Easter, Michael taught me how to drive our car. I explained to him exactly how nice he needed to be, and we found a long, straight stretch of road and I worked on first gear, second gear, first gear, second gear, until I started to get the hang of it.

So on the Thursday before Easter, I got in the car for the first time by myself and headed off to the grocery store to shop for Easter dinner. Terrified. I guessed my way through the two roundabouts (I had NO idea the rules, and since my gear shifting was jerky at best, it was not a safe or pretty situation), and made it to the parking lot of the grocery store.

The parking lot was packed. I jerked and halted my way through as best I could, and finally managed to complete a painful 35 point turn to squeeze myself into the last tiny parking space left. With at least 50 cars waiting to get by me as I inched back and forth into the space. I was sweating and sputtering and talking to the car, pleading with it to just get in that space.

Nearly in tears, I shut the car off and lay my head on the steering wheel. One battle down.

Inside, the small-ish grocery store was packed. Screaming children trailing after their mums, so many people buying alcohol (stocking up because Good Friday is the rare day when you can’t buy alcohol!), and lines at each register halfway across the building.

I battled my way through the store, checking things off my list, and finally made it to the meat section. Scanning the shelves for ham as I knew it. Pre-cooked. Spiral cut. Easy.

No such luck. Just case after case of rounds of raw ham. I stood in front of a wall of squishy-looking raw ham, my eyes welling up again. What on earth was I going to do? Not that my in laws are fussy, but I’d invited them for dinner, and now we were either going to have peanut butter sandwiches or some kind of big ham log thing I was staring at.

So I stood there, inching closer and closer to a melt down in the midst of manic shoppers, staring at raw ham, when a nice old lady next to me started asking what I thought of the ham. Did I think this one looked nice, or did that one have enough meat on it.

And I think I moaned something panicked and despairing back. Something about I’m-American-and-I-don’t-even-know-what-these-are-and-where’s-the-cooked-hams-anyway-and-what-am-I-going-to-do-I-just-want-to-go-ho-o-o-me….and I trailed off.

{In my defense, year one in Ireland was Not Easy. Meltdown mode was the default some days.}

But then the tide turned. This lady was my Easter fairy.

She cheerfully (but not too cheerfully) explained that exactly how to cook the ham, and it didn’t even sound so hard. One of those baking bags, 20 minutes per pound plus an extra 20 minutes, score, stud with cloves, glaze, and presto. Easter ham.

And praise the Easter fairy, it worked. It’s delicious and it’s just the way Easter ham is supposed to be.

{this one’s not mine, but it looked just like this!}

Easter Ham, Dublin Style

1 unsmoked ham fillet
1/2 cup light brown sugar (muscovado)
15-20 whole cloves
1 cup orange juice
bake-in bag
meat theremometer
1 fresh pineapple (optional)

Soak the ham in cold water overnight. Rinse it in cold water and pat it dry. Put it in the bake in bag and tie it up. Stick it with your meat thermometer. Put it in a baking dish and put it in the oven at 350F/180C for 20 minutes for every pound, plus an extra 20 minutes. (Our oven always cooks it way quicker than this, but it’s a good starter guideline.)

Mix the light brown sugar and the orange juice together. When the ham has about a half hour left, take it out of the oven, cut open the bag and cut the fatty rind off, leaving about 1/2 to 1/4 inch of fat on the ham. Score it diagonally with a sharp knife, and stick the whole cloves in the X’s. Spoon the brown sugar and orange juice over the ham, covering as much as possible. Don’t worry that it’s going to run off, it’ll just cook in those juices.

{you get lots of crispy yummy bits like this too}

When the meat thermometer reads 160F, take the ham out and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Since I usually bring the ham to Michael’s parents’ house, I usually slice the ham and layer it in a baking dish with fresh sliced pineapple. Then when I get to their house, I put it in the oven at 150C to warm up, and the pineapple gets a little cooked and cuts the sweetness of the brown sugar glaze.

There you go! A traumatic ham recipe that’s been a hit ever since!

1 Comment

  • Reply An Easy Easter Basket Cake | From China Village March 27, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    […] My family never had a big celebration for Easter growing up, but it was always a good excuse to get together with our extended family for a springy meal. Since moving to Dublin, I’ve been trying to reenact that part each year. (Not always smoothly!) […]

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