The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


April 16, 2014

Cheryle Finley: Ham a main course with many options

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Buying a ham -- the traditional entree for your Easter dinner  -- is not as simple as it sounds. Do you get uncooked, fully cooked, spiral cut, bone-in or boneless? This is truly a matter of personal taste. Some folks swear by the spiral cut, but I have never been a fan. How do you know unless you try one? At our house it was always bone-in and fully cooked, mainly because after Easter dinner we started looking forward to ham and beans, and the bone was always essential to that big stew pot of goodness.

Here's a little glossary of ham terms from Taste of Home that might help you in your search for the perfect ham:

Butt end: The round end of a ham. It's more expensive because it has more meat and less bone. This cut is where we get ham steaks.

Country-style: Dry-cured with salt, sugar and spices and has no water added.

Fresh: Cut from the hind leg that has not been cured or smoked

Fully cooked: Cooked and smoked and/or cured. It can be eaten without heating but is generally heated to 140 degrees for best flavor.

Picnic: Not considered a true ham because it's from the foreleg, not the hind leg. Also has a portion of the shoulder.

Shank: The narrow end of the ham

Smoked: Processed by being exposed to smoke or by having smoke flavor applied to its surface. It can also be cured.

Buying an uncooked ham? It should be baked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. If you are warming a fully cooked ham in the oven, you will need to register 140 degrees for it to be fully heated. All hams are best cooked low and slow but never in an oven set under 200 degrees. The lower the temperature and longer the ham is baked, the more flavorful and moist it will be.

It's always a good plan to get a large enough ham to ensure leftovers. Besides ham sandwiches, put those leftovers to good use. Mix what remains with pasta, put it in salads, make pizza toppings (think pineapple pizza topped with ham), add it to a casserole, mix it with cheese for a baked potato topping, stir it into macaroni and cheese, fry up some slices or chop it into a quiche or scrambled eggs for breakfast.

I have amazing friends. Case in point: Mary and Keri Kirby. They went above and beyond for my "Best of Cheryle" cookbook-signing event at the Carthage Public Library. There were cookies and lemonade for those attending, and lots of fun conversation. I say fun, but one thing was disturbing to me: Mary had never been served potatoes while she was growing up. While she would make them for her children, they never got gravy with them. It is so hard for me to believe because mashed potatoes and gravy were served at our house three or four times a week. But the Kirbys all turned out OK, so I need to let it go. Thank you to those who visited with us on Saturday afternoon, and to the nice people at the library for providing the location. It was so much fun

Jeanette Westbay, of Carthage, was one of the signing visitors and shared a great Easter treat. Take Peeps, dip the bottom half in melted chocolate, then place them on a miniature marshmallow as a tail. It's a super-cute way to get some pants on those Peeps.

I remember hams cooked by my mother were always fully cooked, but she baked them for several hours with pineapple rings perched atop, the ham held in place by toothpicks. I think she probably glazed the ham with something, but all I remember is the pineapple that was occasionally dressed up with a cherry in the middle of each slice. A glaze can be as simple as a cup of brown sugar mixed with 3/4 cup cola soft drink, or much fancier. The general rule of thumb is to add the glaze during the last 30 minutes of cooking time unless otherwise instructed in the directions. From, I share some different ham glaze options. Hopefully one will suit your fancy.

Wayne Wilson celebrated his birthday last Sunday, so on Monday we celebrated at Liberty Bank with his request -- fruit cocktail cake. He made the same request last year, and that was the first time I ever made one of these cakes. It seems his grandmother used to bake fruit cocktail cakes, making it a fond memory for Wayne. I hope mine was at least close to what he remembers. Happy Easter and happy eating.


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