This is my mom’s holiday ham recipe. This amazing ham has been an important part of every Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner I’ve been fortunate enough to share with my family. So you can imagine my surprise last week when I called my mom with a recipe instruction question only to find out that she no longer prepares her ham this way (unfortunately, I haven’t had a holiday meal at mom’s house in a couple of years so I wasn’t aware of this little fact). She said more recently, she’s been buying the spiral cut hams and using the prepackaged glaze that’s included because it’s so convenient. I was surprised and bummed but grateful that I had this special family jewel tucked away in my recipe file and my memory bank. And it’s apparently by no coincidence that I’m finally getting this full recipe down on paper where I can preserve it for all eternity and pass it along to my children and all of you.
Since leaving the nest and embarking on my own cooking adventures, I have tasted and created countless versions of baked ham glazes. But none compare to my mom’s sweet and slightly tangy coating. Her recipe begins with plenty of brown sugar. Can’t get that candy-like caramelization without it. To that she adds some liquid from the canned pineapples. Brown sugar and pineapple? Oh yeah, it’s amazing. Next comes yellow mustard. Y-e-l-l-o-w mustard. Hot dog mustard. It’s essential. Believe me. One time I tried substituting Dijon thinking it would produce a more refined flavor. It didn’t. And I was disappointment. All of that gets whipped up and slathered on the ham. While the brown-sugar-pineapple-yellow-mustard ham bakes away, it gets several mini-Coca-Cola baths. Basting ham with cola is an old Southern practice that remains popular today because it keeps the meat moist and imparts a flavor that’s just so doggone good. And finally, the pineapple rings and maraschino cherries. Too nostalgic? Maybe. But it’s awfully colorful and pretty and brings this recipe full circle. It also transports me back to my childhood holiday dinner table where there was always mom’s classic holiday ham.
Mom’s Holiday Ham Recipe
1 8- to 10-pound fully cooked, bone-in smoked ham
2 cups light brown sugar
1 20-ounce can pineapple slices
1/2 cup yellow mustard
1 12-ounce can Coca-Cola
1 10-ounce jar maraschino cherries
Remove ham from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a shallow roasting pan with aluminum foil; place roasting rack on top. Place ham, flat side down, on rack. Pierce ham all over with an ice pick or metal skewer and score the top in a crisscross pattern (to allow glaze to penetrate the meat). In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, 1/2 cup pineapple juice (from the canned pineapple slices) and mustard. Rub the glaze over the ham and bake, covered, for 1 hour, basting every 15 minutes with the coke. Remove ham from oven and arrange pineapple slices and cherries on top, securing each with toothpicks. (Reserve extra pineapple slices and cherries for another use.) Return ham to oven and bake, uncovered, until ham is heated through and glaze is caramelized, about 30 minutes more. Transfer ham to a serving platter and let rest 20 minutes before slicing. Pour pan juices into a small bowl and serve alongside warm ham. Makes 8-10 servings.