My grandmother's recipe for the cinnamon- and ginger-spiked raisin sauce always-always served with the Easter ham, the Christmas ham, the Sunday ham. (You get the picture. That said, my favorite way to use Spicy Raisin Sauce is drizzled over a ham steak for an easy weeknight supper!) It's a "found" recipe: old-fashioned and 21st-century perfect, both at the same time.
~recipe updated for a little Easter inspiration~
~more recently updated recipes~
Before Christmas last year, my cousin Diane walked into a family cookie party in Winnipeg carrying a wooden box. She laughed, “I’m cleaning out the basement. This was Nana’s recipe box.”
Like magnets, my hands reached for our grandmother’s recipe collection, untouched for more than 25 years. For too long, I ignored my relatives to thumb through a long row of 3x5 cards, some familiar family recipes, many newspaper clippings including some from my mother’s Kitchen Parade columns, a few cryptic hand-written notes.
Nana had cut or taped tabs onto odd pieces of card stock to create her own dividers, Cheese Dishes and Crepes near the front, Puddings and Pickles in the back, with special sections for Peroghies and Turtles, two family favorites. My eyes filled with tears. Nana’s handwriting was so familiar, the make-do separators so typical of her Depression-era frugality.
When Diane said she’d brought the recipe box for me to keep, I sobbed, grateful for her thoughtfulness.
But I saved Nana's recipe box until Christmas so that my sister and I might walk through it together. One of the first recipes we happened on was Nana’s recipe for the raisin sauce she served with the Easter ham. The next day, we made it to serve with our Christmas ham.
Yes, we agreed, this was Nana’s recipe, the one we remember our own mother insisting upon whenever she cooked a ham.
I don’t have children of my own so in due time, Nana’s recipe box will return to Diane’s daughter, the lovely Candice. Such gifts, they belong in the family.
"It's perfect [for Easter ham] ... a timeless classic!" ~ Pamela
SPICY RAISIN SAUCE for HAM
Time to table: 20 minutes but best if made 24 hours ahead
Makes about 2 cups
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 tablespoons dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- Sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
- 1-3/4 cup boiling water
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1/3 cup currants (my preference) or raisins or a mix of raisins and golden raisins
- 1 tablespoon butter
In a medium pot, stir together the brown sugar, flour, mustard, cinnamon, ginger, salt and pepper, pressing the mixture with the back of a spoon to smash any clumps. A tablespoon at a time, add the water, stirring in each tablespoon before adding another. Stir in the vinegar.
Cook gently on medium heat, stirring often, until it begins to thicken a bit. Add the raisins and cook for two minutes, stirring continuously. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted.
Transfer to a covered container, refrigerate for 24 hours to allow the fruit to plump up with spiciness, the flavors to develop and the sauce to further thicken.
To serve, rewarm in a saucepan, serve hot draped over slices of ham.
ALANNA's TIPS The dry mustard acts as thickener as well as flavor so skipping or skimping isn’t advised. I’m especially fond of the hot Colman’s Dry Mustard from England but supermarket-variety dry mustard works fine too, that's what Nana and my mom both used. Plain ol' white vinegar works fine, so does apple cider vinegar. I'd also use a white wine vinegar or an unseasoned rice vinegar. I've never tried a red wine vinegar but think it would make for an unappealing color. Smaller and less-sweet currants seem to "go further" in raisin sauce, 1/3 cup of currants seems like plenty of fruit. But if you're going to use raisins or golden raisins or other larger pieces of dried fruit, the sauce can take up to an entire cup of fruit vs just 1/3 cup. Visually, I do love the color interest you get with a mix of black raisins and golden raisins, even dried cranberries! We eat with our eyes, too, yes?!
Nana's Recipe Box
So this is Nana's recipe box, where we found her long-time recipe for Spicy Raisin Sauce.
Funny thing is? That recipe seems to be the first of Nana's recipes ever published here at Kitchen Parade. What a loss because Nana was an accomplished cook!
Oops, wait! I found one! There is Nana's Cucumbers! And then there's the recipe that might, just might have come from my grandfather, How to Roast Potatoes to Perfection. Still, Nana's legacy is embedded throughout Kitchen Parade in the many recipes shared by my Canadian family, her daughters (my mom and her sister, my dear Auntie Gloria) and all my cousins who are ever so generous.
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