So, there I was in the grocery store with my list and map doing the Christmas dinner raw materials blitzkrieg, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a huge tub of hams with yellow tags on them. At this grocery store yellow tags = serious discount, so out of curiosity I alter my path to take a look.
Giant hams, half and whole, none of them over $10!!! Clearly whoever does the pricing at Ralph's has continued to lose their mind. I have an entire flock of dismembered chickens in the freezer, purchased a few weeks ago for under $15. And I'm still working my way through the That's Almost An Entire Cow for $15 bits purchased a month ago. There must be some sort of pricing war going on.
Anywho, in that moment I decide to tweak the menu. Though I have never in life before made a ham, I'm gonna try one for this feast! All of these hams cost lest than they weigh! This is the one I picked. It's just under 9 lbs and cost $7.89!:
My people do hams this way: The Man checks with The Woman on the size of ham that is needed for the gathering. She tells him. They argue about it for a bit...is she sure they don't need a bigger one? The Man eventually capitulates, gets in the car, drives down to the HoneyBaked Ham store, stands in line for a bit, gets a ham and brings it back home to The Woman, who heats it up. Once it's heated up, The Man cuts up the slices and plates them on the platter. Ever has it been throughout the family, ever shall it be.
I tell The Official Mother of BGF Central all about my coming ham adventure. Here is our (slightly) reconstructed exchange.
Mom: I used to do that. You wouldn't remember, you were small. HoneyBaked is easier, so I stopped once they came to the city.
BGF: What do I do?
Mom: Oh, it's been years. You need a paper bag, a real one, not one that's got other things in it. I don't know if they make those anymore.
BGF: ... Other things in it?
Mom: A real paper bag. You know.
Mom: I can't remember. I think I used brown sugar.
Mom: Cloves, of course. Maybe syrup? Or molasses? I don't think I used honey, but maybe I did. It's been years.
BGF: !!! Recycled !!! Is that what you mean by a paper bag without other things in it?
Mom: I mean a real paper bag.
BGF: Are you saying I have to find an organic paper bag??
Mom: Just get a good one from the grocery store, what they put your things in.
BGF: But I think those are all made from recycled things. Are you telling me I have to find an organic paper bag? Virgin paper bags are wasteful to the trees, aren't they? I don't even know if that kind of thing is legal --
Mom: Let me put your father on the phone. ***
BGF: No! Wait! I'm sorry! I was just thinking out loud!
So anyways, my first stop was Alton Brown's homeport, but I didn't see any ham recipes there. After that I contacted Ms. Classy and The Nice One, who both eventually responded with Dude, Just Get A HoneyBaked. Finally I roamed the internet(s) until I found an approach that seemed similar to what Mom remembered doing pre-HoneyBaked days (but without the requirement of an organic paper bag).
Here's putting together the glaze in a double-boil. It's brown sugar, honey, butter and powdered cloves:
Next time I think I'll put in a bit of crushed fresh ginger for an extra kick.
I didn't take any pictures of peeling the ham. I didn't realize you had to peel a ham until I took off the plastic and was like WTF is this? That didn't take too long, though. I also left far more fat on it than the internet(s) said you should because I like the fatty bits, and I suspected that excess rendered fat could only help add body to the base tone of the glaze. Scoring it was easy in comparison to scoring a duck.
Here is the ham early on in the cooking. Truth be told, at this point I had Concerns, but soldiered on:
After about 3 hours, here is the ham all done! It looked prettier in real life than it does in this picture, and can I tell you the smell was O So Wonderful!:
The next problem was cutting it. HoneyBaked comes pre-cut. I have no idea how to cut a ham. I decided to leave that part to one of the men who would be at dinner, because the tradition among My People is that when meat is involved, The Women cook it and The Men cut it. I was in college before I learned how to cut a whole chicken up, okay? Hilariously, it turned out the first man to show up didn't know how to cut a ham either, but his wife did! So I handed her a vast selection of knives to choose from and got the hell out of her way.
All the worrying I did over this ham was for nothing. It tasted great! (Only now do I realize that I was so busy worrying about how the ham would turn out that I didn't notice until afterwards that I had slightly overcooked the duck. Ha!)
And so it was with great pride that today I put my very first ham bone into a pot of butterbeans:
Also in the pot: red pepper flakes, white pepper, salt, two jalapenos, half a head of garlic, two onions. Boil high just to get it started, drop to medium/low for a good six hours or so.
Lesson learned? Now that I know how to make a ham I will never again in life buy a HoneyBaked. This ham cost me $7! Try to find a HoneyBaked anywhere near that price.
Maybe next time I think I will try what they call a country ham, just to see what the difference is.
***That's code for You're Getting On My Nerves And I Would Like To Stop Talking To You Now.
A quick guide for people who do not follow this fantabulous series, "Lucy" is Lucifer. Note her hilarious choice of reading material, which is always a book along those lines. She & Mr. Deity have an on-again-off-again, and the way they've played it so far it's not entirely clear that she's *not* the mother of "Jesse" aka Jesus.
The people behind Mr. Deity are TOTALLY going to hell, entertaining me all along the way!
And an awesome story about how NORAD began its Santa-tracking service back in 1955!
And some decorations! (shot's bad, but the second one is a Martha Stewart black Santa. Rock.)
And most of the Christmas playlist for today's feast! (I couldn't get it all in on one screencap.) It was easier to replace the standard Mormon Tabernacle Choir playlist than I thought. All I had to do was, well, think about it.
And Cuddle Kitty caught in the act of eating tinsel!
I was Victorious over my first ham. At least I think I was. We'll see what the guests say. More on that, later.
Even though this is a small Christmas gathering of 7 (or possibly 9) and not the typical Chriskwansolstikkah gathering of 60 or so, the assembly line approach remains the best way to pull it off. Especially if, unlike Mom, you have just the one fridge, no counter space, and a single-slot stove. So every day of the week leading up gathering day is spending a couple of hours doing whatever dish can be done ahead of time.***
Plus, I like Martha Stewart's philosophy toward throwing a gathering. One should not be running around frantically day-of. And lord knows there's no reason to get up at 5 a.m. to start cooking everything that day! Martha says that one hour before the guests are supposed to arrive, one should be relaxing on the couch with a glass of wine.
The jamaica - a drink made from flowers, ginger and sugar - was set to soak on Sunday night. The longer it soaks, the more fantabulously stronger it becomes. This will soak three days in the fridge, then the pot goes on the stove with obscene amounts of sugar, boil it down, strain, cool, ready! Fab to drink alone, or with a little bit of tonic, or with vodka (my preferred option):
The reason I have jamaica available at Christmastime and you probably don't (nyah) is because I love this drink, load up on the flowers when they start showing up in the Mexican markets in the spring/summer, and keep a giant plastic sealed tub of them in the pantry year-round.
Monday! Home from work and right into the kitchen to whip up the dough for three different types of cookies - sugar, ginger, and Mexican wedding. Wrap, throw in the fridge to chill and wait until tomorrow for final step:
There's more dough than in this shot...the stuff made for friends who 'place orders' for their Christmas gatherings. I don't know how many years ago it hit me that since all of these cookies are pretty much baked at the same temp, that means all of them can be baked on the same day. Roll one day, bake the next - efficient! Since that means you'll have a hot space, cookie baking day provides perfect conditions for making the dough for the rolls so they'll rise big. And that's what I'll be doing tomorrow after work.
Update! Zombie gingerbread men, Christmas bats, Mexican weddings, and sugar cookies bagged for pickup (the recipient of those decorates them herself for her gathering).
The bat and zombie cookie cutters came into moi life a couple of years ago via The Elite Businessman, who is made of Awesome, and whose gift has delighted friends ever since. (The standard rounds are for people who would rather not have to explain zombie cookies to their people during holiday season.)
*** Exception is greens and chitlins. As each takes pretty much an entire day, that's done the weekend ahead of gathering time and loaded into the freezer for reheat. At this moment of typing I am trying to resign myself to there being no chitlins in time for Christmas, though. This makes me sad. I haven't *entirely* given up finding a source to provide raw materials, technically I have through New Year's Day, but if something does come through it won't be in time for the 25th.