Make ham for the holidays
Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 3, 2012 at 1:03 p.m.
Richard Caggiano has been making sausages and curing hams since 1986. His sausages are widely available locally and, if you pay attention, you can find his hams, too.
You'll find Caggiano products at Shelton Natural Food Market in Healdsburg; Petaluma Market; Glen Ellen Market; Sonoma Market; Molsberry, Pacific and Oliver's markets in Santa Rosa; Pacific Market in Sebastopol and Oliver's Market in Cotati. If you see Caggiano sausage but no ham, just ask at the butcher counter. If none is in stock, you can order one.
I hadn't cooked a ham in many years when I agreed to prepare one, along with a heritage breed turkey, for a new acquaintance who would be returning from travels too late to prepare them himself on Thanksgiving. He liked the idea of a hot-pepper-jam glaze, and so on Thanksgiving morning I came up with a variation of one I'd been making for a long time for fresh pork, not ham. A ham glaze needed something different, I thought, and so I played around with the level of heat and salt.
I loved the results and so did my new friend and his guests. If you'll be preparing a ham this holiday season, you might, too.
Success begins by selecting a good ham. Caggiano hams are outstanding, made simply, as they should be.
“Everyone knows how to cure ham,” Caggiano says, “but not everyone wants to do it the right way.”
To make a ham, he begins with a pork leg, which he bones and separates into its four muscles. The sirloin tip, which is the smallest of the muscles, goes to make a nugget, a 2 to 3-pound ham that will feed 6 to 8 people. The other three muscles are rolled and tied together to make a single ham.
The hams are cured with salt, honey and four spice oils. Caggiano also uses a bit of sodium nitrite, essential, he says, because it kills botulism. He does not add water retainers, curing accelerators or preservatives.
Depending on their size, the hams are smoked for up to 18 hours.
Several local ranchers make hams that you can sometimes find at farmers markets. If you have a favorite farmers market meat vendor, ask if they have hams. Supplies are generally quite limited so I'm not going to mention specific vendors here, lest we overwhelm them.
This ham is an easy and delicious way to feed a crowd. If you'll be feeding just a few, it is easy to adapt the recipe for a nugget ham. Just make half the amount of glaze or make the full amount and store what remains in the refrigerator, where it will keep for quite some time.
Baked Ham with Hot-Pepper Jam and Tequila Glaze
Makes up to 20 servings
1 whole Caggiano or other local ham, about 10 pounds
1 tablespoon butter
2 serrano chiles, minced
1 cup hot-pepper jam of choice (see Note below)
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
1 to 2 teaspoons habañero hot sauce, to taste
½ cup tequila
1bunch cilantro, optional
About an hour before cooking the ham, remove it from the refrigerator and unwrap it, if you have not already done so. Set it on a rack over a roasting pan or sheet pan.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Put the butter into a small saucepan set over medium-low heat, add the serrano chiles and saute until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the jam and stir or whisk until smooth and hot. Season with salt and several turns of black pepper. Taste, carefully, and add hot sauce until it reaches your preferred level of heat. Stir in the tequila and remove from the heat.
If the ham has released any juices (usually, there will be a bit of liquid), discard it.
With the ham on a rack in a roasting pan or sheet pan, use a pastry brush to glaze it and then sit it on the middle rack of the oven.
Bake for about 15 minutes per pound, until the center reaches 150 to 160 degrees. Baste the ham every 30 minutes while it cooks.
Remove the ham from the oven, cover loosely with a tent of foil and let rest 20 to 30 minutes.
If using cilantro, trim it, removing roots, if any, and trimming some of the stems away if they are particularly long. Rinse in cool water, dry very well, preferably in a salad spinner, and spread over a serving platter. If not, simply warm a serving platter.
Cut the ham into thin slices (cutting only as much as you think you'll need), arrange it on the platter and serve.
Note: I used ¾ cup of Kozlowski Jalapeño Jam and ¼ cup Kozlowski Chipotle Jam; I wanted a full range of chile flavors and these were available in Sebastopol. There are several brands, many sold directly from the farmer who makes them, often at a farmers market. Tierra Vegetables also has a wide selection, available at its farm stand on Airport Boulevard, just east of Highway 101 in Santa Rosa.
Scalloped potatoes are a perfect companion to ham, and in this version I add sweet potatoes, which contribute a luscious layer of flavor. If you prefer a traditional dish, use 3 pounds of potatoes and omit the sweet potatoes.
Scalloped Sweet and Savory Potatoes
Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 pounds potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold
1 pound sweet potatoes
1 large yellow onion, peeled
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, preferably organic, cut into small cubes
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
— All-purpose flour
8 ounces grated Cacciacavallo cheese, preferably smoked
2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half, hot
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Peel the potatoes and sweet potatoes, cut them in half lengthwise and cut each half into very thin slices, about 1/8-inch thick. Put the sliced potatoes in a bowl and cover them with water until ready to use.
Cut the onion in half lengthwise and cut each half into very thin slices.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Use a bit of the butter to coat the inside of a large oval or rectangular baking dish.
Drain the potatoes and dry them thoroughly on a clean tea towel.
Spread a third of the potatoes over the bottom of the dish and top with a third of the onions. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with flour, using about 2 teaspoons.
Scatter a third of the butter and half the cheese on top.
Repeat with a second and third layer, ending with butter.
Stir the mustard into the hot cream or half-and-half and pour the mixture over the potatoes.
Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1½ hours, or until the potatoes are completely tender. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes and as long as 30 minutes before serving.
Michele Anna Jordan hosts “Mouthful” each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at email@example.com. You'll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.
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