Easter is only a two days away, so hams are flying out of supermarket cases like turkeys at Thanksgiving. But limiting yourself to ham at this time of year is to deny yourself of one of the easiest treats to serve and enjoy year-round.
All you have to do is follow the label.
That’s it. There are no secrets to remember, no fancy steps to follow.
The label will tell you if you have bought a fully cooked or a partially cooked ham. It will also tell you if it’s spiral cut, which is a real time saver. You just won’t be able to attach any pineapples or maraschino cherries to it during the cooking process.
There is a cooking process to fully cooked hams. You could technically take it out of the wrapper and eat it, but it’s far better if you warm it up according to the directions. You can also glaze it, often with a glaze package attached to the meat. (I find those glazes a little sweet, so in making one I will vary the recipe somewhat, adding a spicy mustard to the mix for a sweet-hot blend. I also use only about half of the amount the packet makes because I want to taste ham first and foremost.)
If you don’t know which ham to buy, then ask yourself a few questions before going to the store:
- How many people are you going to feed?
- How long do you want to spend on preparing the ham before serving?
- How much work do you want it to be after removing it from the oven?
- What type of ham flavor are you looking for?
The first question is easy. If the ham has a bone, then plan on 2-3 servings per pound. If it is boneless, then it should offer 4-5 servings per pound.
If you would rather concentrate on the rest of your meal, consider a fully cooked or ready-to-eat ham that you can put in the oven and forget about until just before serving. Of the two shapes of hams you’ll encounter at the market, most experts agree that the rounder hams (the rump portion), rather than those with a point (the butt), are easier to carve.
That leads to the next question. Spiral cut hams, no matter the shape, take away a good deal of the work once the meat has been warmed and glazed.
There are numerous varieties of ham out there, from salt-cured country ham to fresh ham, which has no preservatives. Check with your butcher or someone in the meat department of your favorite supermarket about your options.
Once the first big meal is over, most leftover ham will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Ham doesn’t freeze particularly well, so use that bone in soup within several days.