My grandmother's recipe for the spicy raisin sauce always-always served with the Easter ham, the Christmas ham, the Sunday ham. (You get the picture.) It's a 'found' recipe, old-fashioned and 21st-century perfect, both at the same time.
Before Christmas, my cousin Diane walked into a family cookie party 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 hand so familiar, the make-do separators so typical of Depression-era frugality. When Diane said she’d brought the recipe box for me, I sobbed, grateful for her thoughtfulness.
But I saved the 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 deserve to stay in the family.
SPICY RAISIN SAUCE for HAM
Time to table: 20 minutes
Makes about 2 cups
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1-1/2 tablespoons dry mustard (see TIPS)
- 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 beginning to thicken. Add the raisins and cook for two minutes, stirring continuously. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted.
Serve warm, draped over slices of ham. Can be made in advance and rewarmed to serve.
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. Smaller and less-sweet currants seem to ‘go further’ in raisin sauce. When I made this recently, I used raisins and golden raisins; I liked the color variety but needed to use 1/3 cup of each.
Nana's Recipe Box
Funny thing, Spicy Raisin Sauce for Ham seems to be the first of Nana's recipes ever published on Kitchen Parade, even though she 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, her legacy is embedded here, in the many recipes shared by my Canadian family, her daughters (my mom and her sister, my Auntie Gloria) and all my cousins who are ever so generous.
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