Christmas Hams that Will Make You Rethink Everything

Give your traditional (dare we say boring?) dinner a flavorful makeover this year

As the centerpiece of the holiday table, your ham should be something worth talking about.

Once considered a holiday staple, the traditional Christmas ham has fallen to the wayside in favor of other holiday favorites like roasts, lasagna, and turkey (for those who didn’t have their fill at Thanksgiving). Make room on your holiday table and rediscover “the other white meat.”

Click here to see Christmas Hams that Will Make You Rethink Everything

The idea of a Christmas ham is so traditional that it actually dates back to the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice. Around 800 C.E., pagans in the area that is now Scandinavia sacrificed wild boar to ensure a successful harvest in the new year.

Ham is defined as the hind leg of a hog, but there are many different types of ham available at the grocery store, and staring at the meat case can get confusing. Country hams are dry-cured, usually for about six months, with a salt mixture, and are not smoked. Similar to prosciutto, which is also dry-cured, country hams are very salty and the curing process intensifies the ham flavor. Wet-cured hams (also known as city hams) are the most popular variety. These hams are either soaked in a salt solution or injected with a curing liquid before being cooked.

Unlike most hams you find in the grocery store, often labeled “ready to serve” or “partially cooked,” fresh ham is raw, uncooked ham that must be cooked all the way through prior to eating.

Once you’ve figured out the type of ham you want, you have to decide whether you want spiral-sliced or whole. Spiral-sliced is bone-in ham that has been pre-sliced; this ham is perfect for glazing and smoking, as each slice gets a coat of flavor. As the name suggests, whole hams are not pre-sliced and they are easier to cook because they don’t dry out as easily as spiral-sliced ham. Score the fat of the whole ham in a crisscross pattern to allow flavors of the glaze or smoke into the ham.

Take this newfound knowledge of ham and go traditionally non-traditional with some recipes for ham that will make you forget about any other holiday options.

Bacon-Wrapped Ham with Pineapple-Agave Glaze


(Credit: iStock/Thinkstock)

Double the pork means double the deliciousness. Perfect for the paleo devotee or avid pork enthusiast, this ham packs a punch of flavor; super-sweet pineapple-agave glaze balances out the doubly savory ham. Click here to see the recipe.

Boiled Ham


(Credit:iStock/Thinkstock)
 
Because you’ve always wanted to learn how hams were cooked in Victorian England. This recipe comes from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, published in 1861, which describes how to boil and serve a ham properly. It still works today. Click here to see the recipe.

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Julie Ruggirello is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @TDMRecipeEditor.