At Easter, there is just nothing better than a spiral-cut ham! Because I grew up with my grandmother roasting fresh, white, uncured hams, a sweet-glazed spiral-cut ham has always been a delicacy to me.
My best friend’s mother bought one every Easter and to me it was heavenly. I loved the crunchy sweet and spicy crust on the ends of the slices. She served the ham cold and kept the leftover ham loosely covered with foil in the refrigerator. It didn’t last long as we — and the rest of the neighborhood kids — kept opening the fridge and pulling off a snack. Because it was spiral cut, you didn’t need a knife to snag a piece. All you needed to do was reach in and grab a thick, meaty slice.
The first Easter I hosted the meal, I ordered a sweet-glazed spiral-cut ham. I felt so grown up and we ate that ham for days. I discovered the joy of a ham sandwich with thick-cut baked ham, crisp lettuce and lots of mayo on toasted white bread.
As time went on, I grew to appreciate the purity of my grandmother’s fresh ham, but soon found that most people expect their holiday hams to be pink. So why not give the people what they want?
The best part is that it is so easy to customize the ham with your own glaze. My “hack” is to make a sweet and spicy dry rub that bakes into a burnished “glaze” (rather than brushing the meat with a wet sauce). It is so quick and easy that I urge you to throw away any packet of sauce that comes with your ham and try it my way.
A dry glaze is a dry spice rub with both sugar and granulated honey (or honey powder) to add sweetness and flavor. You also could use maple sugar granules. Luckily, these powders are easier and easier to find at the grocer or online. My favorite sweet and spicy rub is a combination of cinnamon, allspice, cloves, white pepper, dried honey, salt and sugar. But feel free to riff with your favorite flavors. Just don’t omit the sugar; it melts and holds the other spices together, creating the glaze.
SWEET-AND-SPICY GLAZED HAM
Spiral-cut hams are fully cooked when you purchase them and just need reheating. This is your chance to add tons of flavor in the form of a glaze. This recipe is written for a 5-pound ham, but the recipe is easily adapted to accommodate whatever size you need to feed your Easter crowd. For timing, plan 12 to 15 minutes per pound at 275 F. If you decide to cook a larger ham, you’ll also need to increase the dry glaze (seasoning mixture).
The ham can be cooked either in the oven or on the grill. For the grill, prepare a grill for low heat, indirect cooking. For a charcoal grill, this means banking the hot coals to one side of the grill and cooking on the other side. For a gas grill, this means turning off one or more burners to create a cooler side, then cooking on that side.
One advantage of the grill is that you can add a handful of wet wood chips before heating the ham. I like to do this because the wood adds a fresh layer of smoke to the ham and gives the ham a just-smoked flavor.
Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours (15 minutes active)
5-pound pre-cooked spiral cut ham
1/2 cup honey powder or maple sugar granules
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
Heat the oven to 275 F. (For grilling directions, see the headnote above.)
Use paper towels to pat dry the ham, then set it, cut side down, in a shallow baking pan. Set aside.
In a blender or food processor, combine the remaining ingredients and process until the ingredients are reduced to a fine powder.
Gently pry apart the tops of the spiral cuts. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the seasoning mixture over the ham and push it down between the slices. Cover loosely with foil. Set the ham on the oven’s middle shelf or on the cooler side of the grill. Cook for 45 minutes. Remove the ham from the oven, turn the ham on its other side, then sprinkle another 1/3 of the seasoning mixture over it, again gently working it into the cuts.
Cover the ham with foil again, then return to the oven or grill. Cook for another 30 minutes, or until the ham feels warm all the way through but is not steaming hot.
Remove and discard the foil. Sprinkle the remaining dry glaze over the top of the entire ham. Turn the broiler on in the oven and place the ham under the broiler for 2 to 4 minutes. Watch closely: You want the glaze to bubble and caramelize but you don’t want it to burn. When the ham is burnished to your liking, remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Nutrition information per serving: 280 calories; 120 calories from fat (43 percent of total calories); 13 g fat (4.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 110 mg cholesterol; 2540 mg sodium; 11 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 31 g protein.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and author of three books, including “Taming the Flame.”