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Helpful hints on Ham

What kind of ham will you choose? Hams may be fresh, cured, or cured and smoked. They can be ready-to-eat, fully cooked, partially cooked, or cook-before-eating, and can be wet-cured, dry-cured and aged, or not cured at all. Confusing?

Hams may be fresh, cured, or cured and smoked. They can be ready-to-eat, fully cooked, partially cooked, or cook-before-eating, and can be wet-cured, dry-cured and aged, or not cured at all. Confusing?

Not really, just be sure to read the product label. The label will specify which category the ham falls into, and those that must be cooked before eating will bear the "Safe Handling Label." Nearly all hams will also have basic cooking instructions right on the package.

How much should you buy? It depends on the type of ham you're serving

  • For boneless ham, plan on ¼ to 1/3 pound per person.
  • For ham with little bone, plan on 1/3 to ½ pound per person.
  • For ham with large bone, plan on ¾ to 1 pound per person.

How to thaw: Many hams come frozen so allow plenty of defrost time. Defrost in the refrigerator; it's the safest and most reliable method. Leave the ham in its original wrapper and place it on a tray to catch any dripping that might occur. Complete thawing will take from 4 to 6 hours per pound.

How to cook: The basic cooking rules are pretty simple, but do be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions on the package label. Always use a meat thermometer to make sure the ham has reached the correct internal temperature.

  • Heat fully cooked ham to an internal temperature of 140 degrees.
  • Heat partially cooked ham to an internal temperature of 155 to 160 degrees.
  • Heat cook-before-eating ham to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

How to glaze: Although most hams are perfectly delicious baked just as they are, straight from the package, scoring the surface rind in a diamond pattern and adding a glaze dresses the ham for a festive occasion. About 45 minutes before the ham is done, remove it from the oven, score the surface fat in a diamond pattern, insert a whole clove into the center of each diamond, and brush the ham generously with your chosen glaze. Return the ham to the oven to finish baking.

The glaze doesn't have to be complicated or fancy. Any of the following traditional suggestions can be prepared in minutes.

  • Brown Sugar Glaze: Combine ¾ cup packed light brown sugar with 2 teaspoons dry mustard. Stir in orange juice until mixture is of a spreading consistency.
  • Cranberry Glaze: Stir together ¾ cup jellied cranberry sauce, 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar, and 1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice.
  • Marmalade Glaze: Microwave ¾ cup of your favorite marmalade until it is of spreading consistency.

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