This Thanksgiving I didn’t cook a ham because I was already cooking a turkey and just three of us would be there to eat it. But my husband bought a ham anyway, because he loves ham and there it was in the fridge after I’d finished packaging the turkey leftovers for the freezer. And it got cold (and it getting colder) and we’d eaten all the turkey dressing and gravy.
So today, First Sunday of Advent, I decided to make an Advent Ham. Yes, there are theological problems all over the map with an Advent Ham, but it’s not a Thanksgiving Ham if it’s not baked & eaten on Thanksgiving, and I’m not calling it a Christmas Ham, or a Holiday Ham, because…*other* theological problems. Advent Ham.
Years back, a friend of mine glazed her ham with the juice from a jar of spiced pears and some brown sugar. We, however, had two pear trees, and I had made jams & jellies before. And had my own ideas on spicing (stronger than what was in that jar, for instance.) So I tried putting up some pears as spiced pear jam. Then, as happens to some old pear trees around here (and these were approaching old age) one of them died and the other one sprouted from its rootstock and just about quit producing pears. So I started buying a pear or two at Thanksgiving and making a glaze “on the spot.” It’s had many incarnations over the years…brown sugar & mustard and spices with the pear. Then I discovered maple syrup with pears…and that if you put in enough sugars (part maple syrup) with pears it got too cloying. And I happened to have some limes.
So that’s the history. This is the glaze (feel free to vary as you wish; I’m not getting paid for this.)
1 pear. and I prefer the red ones because they’re pretty.
Quarter and core the pear, cutting out the hard line of the stem that’s down into the core. Dice it fairly small (or for those with food processors, I suppose you could render into mush that way.)
Into a small saucepan, put the pear bits, a large lump of dark brown sugar, a generous slather of maple syrup, and the following ground spices in descending order of amounts: cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and add enough water to just barely (or not quite) cover the pear pieces. I just shake the stuff in until it smells right, but then I’ve been cooking with this spice blend for many purposes for years. I will say a large pinch of the cloves is usually enough. Simmer until the pears (the red pears we get here are very hard) begin to soften and then mash them down as they do so…they gradually give in (but never completely) and the liquid gets browner with lots of little spice dots.
Taste the liquid at intervals. The pear flavor comes gradually as the pear juice comes out. If you’ve used quite a lot of maple syrup, you may find–as that happens–that it becomes too heavy and cloying. Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice of half a lime into the mix, stir, and taste. Sometimes (depends on the particular pear and how heavy your hand was with the brown sugar and esp. maple syrup) half a lime is enough. If not, there’s the other half. Add that half lime’s juice slowly, tasting at intervals. Suddenly the flavor will go bright but still sweet, and you’re done.
This is enough for the typical half-ham found in our stores during the holidays. I put these pre-cooked hams in at 350 for about an hour, adding glaze every 15 minutes. The hams you buy may need a different schedule. You can dilute your glaze (simmering will definitely reduce it) if you need more. Any leftover glaze is delicious on vanilla ice cream.