Eastern Europeans love their Easter Ham, along with the Kobasa (smoked pork sausage), eggs, Paska, and all the other goodies, they arrange in their Easter Basket for blessing, and then feast on it, during Easter Sunday brunch.
I call it Easter Sunday brunch, because by the time all the Easter Sunday morning church services are over (at least 3 hours), and by the time everyone greets each other with the special Easter Greeting, “Khrystos Voskres – Voistynu Voskres” ( Christ Is Risen, Indeed He Is Risen – in Ukrainian), or “Chrystus Zmartwychwstal – Prawdziwie Zmartwychwstal” – in Polish, you do not get home until about 10-11 AM, if you are lucky to live fairly close to your church.
Also, the fast has not been broken yet, so no one had breakfast yet, until you get home from church, and dig into that Easter Basket (that is why all the food tastes so great on Easter).
Today I will share with you my experience with selecting and preparing my ham for Easter.
My family and I love smoked meats, so of course I shop for smoked ham, rather than honey ham, or glazed ham.
I look for the “butt” section of a ham, rather than the “shank” section, since the butt section has more ham meat, and less bone (remember ham is priced per pound…bone or meat…).
Also, I try to look for ham that does not have too much fat on it, but you do need some, at least on one side, to flavor the ham during baking. I do not trim the fat before baking, but do it afterward.
All the hams you find in the store, are basically precooked already, and all you have to do is to spice them up to your own taste, glaze them if that is your choice, and bake them long enough to warm them up all the way through.
According to the package directions, if you allow about 20 minutes of baking time per pound, your ham will be totally baked all the way through.
Since most hams are too salty for my taste, I precook it before baking, by placing the ham in a large pot of water, adding a couple of bay leaves, few garlic cloves, NO SALT, bringing it to boil, and cooking for about 20 minutes.
This process not only draws out some of the salt from the ham, it also provides me with ready stock for my sauerkraut soup, which I always prepare for Easter Sunday early dinner (it tastes great, after eating all “dry” meats and breads for brunch), and of course some more of the same for dinner, plus few additional dishes.
After the ham has been boiled for 20 minutes, I stud it strategically with chunks of fresh garlic, sprinkle some black pepper over it, drip some canola oil over the top, place it in an open roasting pan, add a cup of water, and bake it per the above instructions per pound, usually at 350 degrees F.
The aroma of the baking ham is very trying, since I usually bake it on Good Friday, a very strict fast day of the 40 day Great Lent,when not even dairy products are permitted, so you know how enticing this must be to smell something this good, and not being able to taste it.
Once the ham is baked, I cover it with aluminum foil, to keep it from drying out, while it is cooling, to be ready to cut a portion for the Easter Basket arrangement.
I add the juices from the baked ham to the broth I saved from precooking the ham before baking, which adds a lot of flavor to the stock for the sauerkraut soup.
Now you know my method for selecting and preparing my Easter Ham.
Please share your comments, and experiences, with your ham preparations, since I am always willing and ready to learn something new.