Looking for a special way to cook a ham? Start with a smoked ham and then, yes, smoke it again. The second smoke transforms an already good ham into something that's smoky-good and with perfect texture for serving at room temperature in a buffet or gently rewarmed in the oven for serving hot at the table.
The story of my obsession with ham, especially Twice-Smoked Ham, begins four years and 200 pounds of ham ago.
Inspired by a recipe from a food magazine, I went hunting for a Christmas ham, not just any ham, mind you, but the exact one specified in that ‘preferably’ language that recipes use – a ‘smoked ham, bone-in, shank end’ ham.
My teenage nephew was along, our first stop was Whole Foods where we found little more than blank stares. “Com’on, Auntie Al. Let’s get a honey-baked spiral ham,” he pressed, already bored with my pursuit.
Plan B, however, was what we ‘always’ serve for Christmas, a beef roast. So off we went to Ladue Market, the only place in St. Louis to buy prime meat, where the butcher counter just happened – get this – to sport a hand-lettered sign, ‘WE HAVE MILLER HAMS’. Instantly curious, I asked, “What’s a Miller Ham?” Turns out, a Miller Ham is a locally cured ham, smoked. “Could I get the shank end?” Sure! Plan A was back.
The best news came at the check-out when a 15-pound ham cost about the same as maybe two pounds of prime beef. Call me hooked on ham. Since then, I’ve found a place that sells Miller hams for $2 a pound, not $3. Call me really hooked.
WHY SMOKE A SMOKED HAM A SECOND TIME? Now I love a good baked ham and will share one or maybe two great recipes along the way. But a Twice-Smoked Ham, it’s almost its own category of ham.
The first difference is in taste. It’s just sooo smoky good, somehow it tastes like what ham is ‘supposed’ to taste like, none of the sugary-sweet business of expensive spiral-cut hams, just real meat, real ham.
The second difference is in texture. The extra time in the smoker removes some of the ‘wetness’ that plagues hams these days. It moves closer to a country ham that’s less wet – although I promise, this ham is as moist as can be, it’s not dry, it’s just not overly wet. While I’ve never tasted a country ham, I think we’ve maybe achieved something akin to a country ham, although more smoky than salty.
HAM 101, a PRIMER When I first started buying ham, I found all the terms confusing and couldn't figure out if ham were already cooked or not. So I've put together what I call Ham 101: What to Know Before Buying a Ham including tips on finding a locally produced ham in your own area.
Time to table: 24 hours
- 1 whole smoked ham, bone in
- Whole cloves
Soak some four-inch hickory logs in water. They should be cut to fit the smoker firebox.
Glaze the ham with a sticky mixture of water, salt and brown sugar, maybe some good mustard. Let dry somewhat and glaze again. Or stick the ham with cloves, not too many, 10 for a little spice, 20 for a lot. Or both. We like both.
Place some charcoal in the firebox and light. Read the paper. The daily is about the right length of time. Put a pan of water in the smoker. Put the ham in the smoker.
Play ball with the grandchildren. After about two hours add a little charcoal. Remember, you are not cooking the ham, you are smoking the ham. Take a nap.
Two hours later add another log. Go for a walk or to the store or whatever you like to do on a Saturday.
Overnight, try to check the smoke output about every four hours adding a log and charcoal as needed.
If you are so inclined, go to church on Sunday morning. If not, read the Sunday paper while enjoying a cup or two of coffee. Discuss the news with someone dear to you. Be civil.
As the noon hour approaches, bring the ham inside and let it stand for an hour. With luck, your guests will bring side dishes. If not, you should have planned accordingly. If this is a family occasion, there should be enough children to organize a baseball game. Get the local ground rules straight before the game.
After the game, the ham will be ready to slice and serve.
After dinner, put the bone in a large pot with some beans. Add onion. Simmer a long time. Eat the ham ‘n’ beans Monday night.
ALANNA's TIPS For a buffet, Twice-Smoked Ham is best served barely warm turning to room temperature. But it’s also fabulous served hot. Smoke the ham a day or two ahead, cover and refrigerate. Return to room temperature, cover with foil and rewarm in a 350F oven until the meat reaches an internal temperature of about 120F. If you’re smoking one smoked ham, why not smoke two or three? Hams are quite inexpensive, they would make great gifts at Christmas or even Easter. Since ham doesn’t freeze well, choose the size of ham enough for the main meal and leftovers for a few days.
Just Look at This Gorgeous Ham!
Those first slices of Twice-Smoked Ham are coveted! The smokiness, the moistness, the richness are so enticing, people gather round, ready to snatch the first slices of ham.
An Easter Menu
~ Twice-Smoked Ham ~
Spicy Raisin Sauce
Asparagus Whole-Wheat Bread Pudding
World's Best Green Casserole
Creamy Carrot Purée
Classic Seven-Layer Salad
from A Veggie Venture
Vegetable Biryani for a Crowd
from One Hot Stove
(Nupur brought this for Christmas one year, fabulous)
Walnut Chocolate Cake
More Easter Specialties
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