Appetites: Midwesterners know what a proper ham is

A photo of a ham dinner taken by Ted Polumbaum, circa 1957. Courtesy Ted Polumbaum

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Ham is the traditional centerpiece for the Easter dinner. If you're celebrating the holiday, chef and cookbook author Amy Thielen wants you to celebrate with the right kind.

"I found when I talked to food editors on the East Coast, there's always confusion. 'Is this a deli ham? Or a sliced honey ham?'" Theilen said. "No. Midwesterners know what I'm talking about."

It's a brined, smoked, whole muscle smokehouse ham.

"A really good one will be smoked until it's a copper color, dry looking on the surface, and not encased in a bag," she said.

And when the meal is over, use the leftovers to make ham salad sandwiches.

Baked ham with spiced sherry glaze

Homemade smoked ham is seen here before and after slicing. Courtesy of Amy Thielen


1 9-pound double-smoked cooked ham (half of a whole ham)

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

3/4 cup (lightly packed) light brown sugar

1/2 cup dry sherry

2/3 cup sherry or apple cider vinegar

5 whole cloves

1 whole star anise

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

With a sharp knife, score the ham by cutting a quarter-inch-deep crosshatch pattern into its surface. Set the ham on a rack inside a large baking or roasting pan, and pour water to reach 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. Cover tightly with foil, and bake the ham until it tests hot at the center and measures at least 140 F, about two hours. (To test it, poke a thin meat fork deep into the ham, leave it there for a second, and then press the tines to your lower lip, where you'll be able to feel its temperature.)

Remove the ham from the oven and raise the temperature to 425 F.

For the glaze, combine the orange juice, brown sugar, sherry, vinegar, and spices in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring, until the glaze reduces to a syrup, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and stir to combine.

Uncover the ham, and pour off and reserve all but enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan. Thinly brush the glaze over the surface and roast the ham in the oven for 10 minutes.

Continue to roast the ham, basting it twice more and using all of the glaze, until the surface is deeply caramelized, another 15 minutes. Rest 10 minutes before slicing thinly across the grain.

Ham salad with pickled Thai chiles

Amy Thielen offers this tasty ham salad with pickled Thai chiles to use up the leftover ham after your Easter feast. Courtesy Amy Thielen

Ingredients for ham salad:

1 pound ground ham, such as Frick's

heaping 3/4 cup mayonnaise, such as Hellman's

1-2 teaspoon minced pickled chiles

2 tablespoons pickling liquid

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 scallions, finely minced

1/4 cup minced parsley

bread, iceberg lettuce, for sandwiches

Ingredients for pickled Thai chiles:

2 ounces Thai or habanero chiles (15-20)

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 cloves garlic, smashed

3 slices lemons, seeds removed

For the pickled chiles, combine everything in a small saucepot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let steep until cool. Cover, refrigerated, for as long as one month.

To make the ham salad, combine the ground ham, mayonnaise, minced pickled chiles, pickling liquid, pepper, scallions, and parsley, and mix well. Make sandwiches by spreading the ham salad thickly between two slices of soft bread with iceberg lettuce.

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