I’ve been holding onto a recipe for Roast Fresh Ham from America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated for a few years now. I could never figure out how to get a fresh (uncured) ham. Sure, I could have asked at the meat counter, but those guys always seem in such a hurry, and I just can’t figure out how to broach the subject of how to get something that isn’t in the display case. The one time I did try to special order a corned beef brisket, the butcher guy said, “Oh, there’ll be plenty! You don’t need to special order it.” When I went to get the brisket he said, “Sorry. All the ones we have are reserved for people who special ordered them.” Not really worth confronting my fear of talking to store employees.
As luck would have it, I got a fresh ham in my meat CSA share from Christiansen Family Farm a few months ago. I’ve been holding onto that ham just waiting for the right occasion to roast it up. The recipe is basically an all-day affair, plus the 24 hours of brining that precedes the actual cooking, so I needed to find just the right combination of time off for my husband and no plans for the rest of us.
The stars aligned this weekend, just in time to have Roast Fresh Ham for New Year’s dinner! I served it with a side of Kale and Blackeye Peas, traditional New Year’s fare which I kind of threw together.
The ham turned out even better than I’d imagined it would. My husband raves about it. He said he would have been satisfied had he gotten something like this at a fancy-shmancy restaurant in San Francisco. Although it’s a little like, “Wow! That’s so good, I’m amazed that you cooked it!” I’ve decided to take it as a compliment. The kids even loved it, but they’re big meat eaters. (My 16.5-month-old walked in the kitchen while I was carving the roast, yelled, “Meat!” and went to get a plastic plate out of the kid-dishes drawer.)
Roast Fresh Ham
Ham and Brine
1 (6- to 8-pound) fresh bone-in half ham with skin, preferably shank end (I’m not sure what part ours was. I think it was more like 3-4 pounds, though.)
3 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups table salt (I used 4 cups kosher salt)
2 medium heads garlic, cloves separated and crushed
10 bay leaves
1/2 cup black peppercorns, crushed (I put the garlic cloves and peppercorns in a big Ziploc freezer bag and beat them with the bottom of a pan, then poured them in the brine liquid.)
2 gallons water
(I made a half recipe of this since our ham was so much smaller than called for. The amounts below are the original amounts)
1 cup lightly packed fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
8 medium cloves garlic, peeled and chopped coarse (about 8 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 recipe glaze (see below)
1. For the ham and brine: Carefully slice through skin and fat on the ham with a serrated knife, making a 1-inch diamond pattern; be careful not to cut into the meat.
2. Dissolve the sugar and salt in 2 gallons water in a stockpot or large container. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, and peppercorns, submerge the ham in the brine, cover, and refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours.
3. For the herb rub: Process the sage, parsley, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper together in a food processor to a smooth paste, about 30 seconds. (I ended up adding a tad more olive oil to make this the consistency of pesto.)
4. Set a wire rack inside a roasting pan. (I wrapped the rack with foil and poked several holes in the foil.) Remove the ham from the brine and rinse. Pat the ham dry with paper towels. Transfer the ham, wide cut side down, to the prepared wire rack. (If using the sirloin end, place the ham skin side up.) Rub the garlic and herb mixture all over the ham, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. (I didn’t allow enough time for this step, so I skipped it and just put the ham in the oven at this point.)
5. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Roast the ham for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and brush (I just spooned) the ham with the glaze (recipe below). Continue to roast the ham, brushing it with the glaze every 45 minutes, until the meat closest to the bone registers 145 to 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 1/2 hours longer.
6. Transfer the ham to a cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest until the meat closest to the bone registers 155 to 160 degrees, 30 to 40 minutes. Carve the ham and serve. (I didn’t let the ham rest. I just roasted the ham until it was ~160-ish degrees then took it out and called it done.)
reprinted from Cook’s Illustrated‘s The Best Slow & Easy Recipes, published by America’s Test Kitchen, 2008
makes 1 generous cup, enough to glaze 1 spiral-sliced or fresh ham
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Cook all of the ingredients together in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and syrupy, 5 to 10 minutes. (The glaze will thicken as it cools between bastings; rewarm over medium heat as needed to loosen.)
Kale and Blackeye Peas
2 cans blackeye peas
1 large leek, cleaned well and chopped
1 bunch kale, de-ribbed and torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
rice or apple cider vinegar
In a large saute pan, mix the peas, leek, and kale. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the kale is wilted and the mixture is hot. Add a dash or two of vinegar and salt to taste.