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My Grandfather's Holiday Honey-baked Ham: How Sweet it Was!

I’m not all that keen on holidays; other than getting a day or two off from work or school, the only thing that ever really excited me was that it was a chance to do some serious eating.  When I was a kid, I always looked forward to holidays, because on those occasions, the table would be laden with treats that were normally not available.  I especially liked the rare visits on a holiday to my fraternal grandfather’s house.  He lived in a cabin in the woods that he built himself, and didn’t have much to do with other people except at Christmas.  Once or twice when I was a teenager – my grandfather absolutely refused to have anything to do with anyone under the age of 13 – my father would take me and my older brother Thomas to spend the day with granddad.He grew or hunted most of what he served on the holiday, so the table would be laden with venison, rabbit stew, baked opossum with sweet potatoes, and all manner of food that nature and his small truck garden could provide.  Granddad also raised hogs, and my all time favorite holiday recipe is one that I discovered the last time I visited him.  Everyone is familiar with honey glazed ham, but granddad cooked a honeyed ham that was absolutely mouth watering.  Here’s his recipe:HONEY-BAKED HAMOne large ham (cut so that it rests on its flat side in the baking pan)Two cups of honey One quarter cup of cinnamonSaltPepper After washing the ham, take a narrow skewer (my grandfather used an old-fashioned ice pick) and poke five or six holes in the top and sides.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over the ham, then using a basting brush, cover the entire top and sides with honey.  Sprinkle cinnamon over the ham and place it in a hot oven.  The original recipe was baked in a wood-burning stove, but with today’s ovens, a temperature of 375 degrees is recommended.  Bake it, basting it with additional honey every ten minutes or so, until the surface starts to turn brown, and when you poke through the surface, the meat underneath is pink.  For the last ten minutes of cooking, lower the temperature to 300 degrees and baste it with the rest of the honey.The honey creates a nice glaze, and you can decorate it with pineapple slices and cherries, held in place with toothpicks, but more importantly, because of the holes in the ham, the honey infuses into the meat, so that even the center meat has a nice sweet flavor.  This dish goes extremely well with baked sweet potatoes, collard greens, sweet peas, and iced tea.  Many people like cloverleaf rolls with their holiday meals, but another great bread to accompany honey-baked ham is cornbread containing sweet corn, onion, and jalapeno peppers.

Just thinking of it has started my mouth to water, and has brought back memories of holidays as they are meant to be; quiet occasions when families get together and enjoy just being in each others’ company.   When my kids were small, I did most of the holiday cooking, and this was one of their favorites at either Thanksgiving or Christmas.

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Yum Yum!

Your grandfather sounds fascinating. Wonder why he didn't enjoy young children. Maybe his life was too full to hard work to have time to fool with them. But he certainly knew how to celebrate Christmas. That ham sounded spectacular. If we still raised hogs, I would love to try this on a whole ham. (I never raised hogs even though I say "we." Gerald did, and I would not want him to have to go back to that hard work for a minute, but in my imagination, I wish I had a fresh farm-raised ham to try this on.)

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Thanks Sue, . . .

I plan to do this recipe with a half ham (from the store) for this Christmas. I miss old granddad, even if he didn't like kids.