Last year, I wanted to make ham for Thanksgiving. I was out-voted (we had a turkey). The thing is, how many occasions does one have, other than Thanksgiving, to roast a large piece of meat knowing there will be plenty of folks around to help you eat it?
When I received a fresh ham in my meat pick-up last month, I immediately called my friend Allison, a fellow ham-lover (but also a turkey for Turkey Day purist). When I suggested Sunday, February 3rd for ham dinner, it was only with very mild exasperation that she reminded me that February 3rd was Super Bowl Sunday. Not a problem — ham should be eaten in the late afternoon, before money-hungry networks televise long-awaited sporting events, forcing small children to stay up past their bedtimes.
A fresh ham is essentially a large piece of roasted pork. It has none of the smoky, salty flavor of the ham most of us eat regularly. It’s more like roast pork loin — sweet and clean tasting. This recipe, from the Gourmet Cookbook, ups the ante with a killer gravy and homemade cracklings. That’s right: gravy and crisp, roasted pig skin.
Beer Basted Fresh Ham With Cracklings and Pan Gravy
Adapted from Epicurious
For the Ham:
8 – 10 lb fresh ham
Vegetable oil for rubbing
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1⁄2 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon English-style dry mustard
12 oz. beer (not dark)
For the Gravy:
2 tablespoons AP flour
1 cup beef broth
1⁄2 teaspoon English-style dry mustard
1⁄4 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1⁄4 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
Pre-heat oven to 500°. With a small, very sharp knife, prick the ham skin all over. Make four parallel, ½” deep incisions through the skin, running the entire length of the ham. Rub the ham lightly with oil all over. In a small bowl, combine salt, thyme, sage, pepper and mustard and rub the mixture over the entire ham. Place the ham on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Place ham in oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325°. Roast for 1 hour. Pour half the beer over the ham and roast for 30 minutes more. Pour remaining beer over the ham and roast for 2 – 2 ½ hours more, until the pork registers 150° on an instant-read thermometer.* (If the drippings appear to be burning, add some water to the bottom of the pan while cooking.)
Let the pork cool on the rack in the pan for 15 minutes. Carefully pull the crisp, brown skin off the ham, leaving the fat behind. With scissors, cut the skin into small pieces, arrange on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and roast at 350° for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown on both sides. Transfer cracklings to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
Remove the remaining fat from the ham with a sharp knife. Tent the ham with foil and let rest while you make the gravy. Skim the fat off the juices in the roasting pan. Add one cup water to the pan and deglaze the pan over moderate heat, scraping up the brown bits. Transfer the drippings to a saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and ¼ cup of the broth until the mixture is smooth. Whisk the flour mixture into the pan with the drippings, along with the remaining broth and the remaining gravy ingredients. Simmer the gravy, whisking, for 5 minutes.
Slice the meat thinly and across the grain. Arrange on a platter with the cracklings. Serves 8 with leftovers. I think the leftovers would make awesome Cuban sandwiches, but I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet.
*The original recipe said to roast until the ham reached 170° — that is way too long. Trust me, my ham was cooked throughout with nary a trace of pink — I think I could have taken it out five degrees sooner. I’m also very curious to know how brining would have affected the texture of the ham and I might try that next time.