Ham is popular at Christmas in many parts of the world — including Spain, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines — whether it’s part of the main course, an appetizer, or a side. It’s an English tradition that started with the Germanic tribes, who wanted to appease Freyr, the Norse god of fertility, harvest, and wealth, to whom wild boar was said to be the preferred sacrifice.
Americans eat about 318 million pounds of ham between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Glazed ham is especially popular around Christmas, which mean people hosting parties are probably already looking into recipes.
Ham is cut from the rump of the pig or the back thigh. How long it takes to cook depends on the type of ham you’re making, according to Anthony Alexander, a New York City-based chef. Country ham is cured, rubbed in salt, hung and allowed to dry. “This time-consuming process creates complex flavors that make this ham by far the best. It also requires more work to cook,” Alexander says.
A festive-looking glazed ham can be the main attraction at dinner, but it’s easy to get this classic holiday food wrong if you forget a few simple steps.
Recipes usually list the basic steps for preparing a dish, but it’s important to know what not to do as well. Being on ham duty can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first time cooking it. One mistake can lead to others. And it all starts with the kind of ham you choose.