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Thanksgiving is over. Time to stop talking about it, it’s done, let’s all regroup on this topic next year. (That was primarily a note to myself, goodbyes are hard.)

But seriously, it’s time to shelve all of the Thanksgiving talk because truly, we’re deep into the holidays at this point. We need to shift gears. We need to talk about things like snowflake cookies and Yule logs.

Unfortunately, right now I have limited pictures of our holiday food to share with you. Why? Because last year at this time I didn’t have the faintest clue that I’d one day write a blog. But here I am, fessing up, and facing a bit of an emergency: I have to tell you about our Christmas Ham and have no pictures of the end product.

I hope you can forgive me. I’m only a team of one. I’m not Bon Appetit magazine with a staff of recipe testers who start buying, cooking, and photographing holiday hams in June. If I bought a Ham right now for picture purposes, we’d be eating ham leftovers for weeks. Come Christmas I’d be so over ham. And what a horrible tragedy that would be.

But thank heavens for ham steaks, which are available at Whole Foods. Perfect when you’re in a ham pinch but you don’t want to buy the full beast. And it’s just enough meat to showcase the best part of our ham dinner, the king of condiments: mustard.

We haven’t always been Christmas ham devotees. In fact I cooked my first just a few short years ago. In the past we used to serve turkey, a family tradition.

But that was in Canada, where Thanksgiving and Christmas are separated by months, not weeks. In the US, I’m just getting through my freezer stash of turkey leftovers when it’s time for another bird. Too much, too soon. I apologize turkey lovers, apparently I’m showing my true stripes and it’s not impressive. But really, I can only do so much turkey.

So I put my foot down one year. I shook things up. I cooked a capon.

Which is about as different from a turkey as a strip steak is from a T-bone.

But the capon was a foot in the right direction. Old traditions die hard, and this was a tough one to move past.

The following year, emboldened, I thought I’d take an even bigger step. Go for something a little more Dickensian. A goose? Perhaps. But after floating the idea around the family, there was some resistance. Goose didn’t seem appealing to the majority of those polled.

We needed something mainstream, and so we picked ham. Hallelujah, a new tradition was born.

It just so happens that we were having a bunch of friends and family to the lake to celebrate Christmas dinner that year and I wanted an easy dinner. I was wiped out after three straight weeks of ordering, unboxing, sorting, wrapping, labeling, hiding the mountain of gifts that would end up under our tree. While not a spoiler during the other 11 months of the year, I fall hard for the holidays.

So I planned ahead for dinner: I bought a big smoked ham from my butcher Mike, got a bunch of rolls and different kinds of bread from Amy’s in Chelsea Market. (And hey! I was able to dig up some photographic evidence):

bread 094

And best of all, I stocked up on all kinds of mustards – spicy, sweet, and whole grain. When you’re taking the easy road with dinner, you have to impress with something, and pretentious mustard fits the bill. (By the way, here’s what I’m serving with our dinner this year):

mustard 092

1. Fire in the Mountain forest fire mustard

2. American Spoon whole grain mustard

3. American Spoon cranberry mustard

4. Ish beet horseradish (ok, maybe not a mustard, but still awesome with ham)

5. Fire in the Mountain maple mustard

6. Anarchy in a Jar beer mustard

My ham recipe is one that I found online at epicurious.com, and I’ve copied it below for anyone who wants to make it. Just glaze, bake, carve. Couldn’t be simpler.

But sometimes simplicity is the best solution. I’ll never forget that first ham dinner. 

At first we sat around like civilized adults, we did the expected thing. We gasped in awe as the platter of ham was placed on the table. We built sandwiches respectfully: a few pieces of ham, a little mustard here, a little ham there. It was very Martha Stewart.

But at a certain point, we realized that the ham was just too good. It was juicy, smoky, sweet and crispy all at once.

To hell with the person helping himself with the one set of servers. We couldn’t wait. We were going in with our hands. Sleeves were rolled back, manners were checked. We were making sandwiches after all, with the closest of family and friends, manners were optional at that point.

And so it went. From Martha Stewart to sharks in a feeding frenzy. It was pure gluttony, unchecked.

But isn’t that what the holidays are for? To laugh with family and friends, put down our guards, and just dive into a holiday feast with reckless abandon?

I dare say it is.

So happy holidays everyone. I hope that you’re gearing up for some wonderful feasts throughout the month. And if you’re still searching for that perfect holiday tradition, remember, there’s always ham.

Old-fashioned ham with brown sugar and mustard glaze
Serves 10
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
4 hr 30 min
Total Time
4 hr 45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
4 hr 30 min
Total Time
4 hr 45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 10-pound smoked ham with rind, preferably shank end
  2. 1 cup unsweetened apple juice or apple cider
  3. 1/2 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
  4. 2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  5. 1/4 cup honey
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Place ham in large roasting pan. Pour apple juice over ham. Cover ham completely with parchment paper, then cover ham and roasting pan completely with heavy-duty foil, sealing tightly at edges of pan. Bake ham until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of ham registers 145°F, about 3 hours 45 minutes. Remove ham from oven. Increase oven temperature to 375°F.
  2. Remove foil and parchment from ham. Drain and discard liquids from roasting pan. Cut off rind and all but 1/4-inch-thick layer of fat from ham and discard. Using long sharp knife, score fat in 1-inch-wide, 1/4-inch-deep diamond pattern. Spread mustard evenly over fat layer on ham. Pat brown sugar over mustard coating, pressing firmly to adhere. Drizzle honey evenly over. Bake until ham is well glazed, spooning any mustard and sugar glaze that slides into roasting pan back over ham, about 30 minutes. Transfer ham to serving platter; let cool at least 45 minutes. Slice ham and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from Epicurious.com
Adapted from Epicurious.com
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