September 17, 2015
Bourbon, ham, what could go wrong?
This is a family recipe. It comes from dear friends, well, family, in all but biology. They live in Florida. And about 8 years ago, while I was in the middle of chemo, they invited us down for Christmas. My Mum was going down. My second Mum, Auntie Joan was going to be there. The thought of a roadtrip for Christmas, and heading somewhere warm, that wasn't a hospital, was like a banquet of riches. I was more than grateful. I was overwhelmed.
So, the oncologist shrugged her shoulders and said, "go for it." Steve got lessons on how to flush and check a PICC line from our public health nurse (that's an intravenous line that stays in your upper arm throughout the six chemo treatments - and we only had to do it once during our stay), I donned a head scarf, packed some tshirts with longer sleeves, and we headed south. I don't even remember thinking about medical insurance for the trip. Wow.
I was on steroids at the time. I took them a couple of days before, then a couple of days after a treatment. That meant I ate like a lumberjack. Maybe two lumberjacks. Okay...three. And then I discovered Bob Evans. The restaurant with meatloaf sandwich screaming from the menu. I have never, for the record, ordered a meatloaf sandwich before. We stopped somewhere on interstate 79 for lunch the first day on the road. I ordered it. It came. Meatloaf sandwich on a plate. That's it.
"I thought this came with fries," I said with a tad of aggression or annoyance, in a voice that wasn't entirely my own. The waitress jumped back almost imperceptibly. "I didn't think you'd want fries," she said. "Oh, I'll let you know if I want fries."
Steve was staring at me. And looking strangely amused. I didn't take the time to notice...I dug in. And within five minutes I called the waitress over. "I'll take the fries," I said. She brought a platter-sized portion.
We'd stopped for a big breakfast about four hours before that. But at the time I was eating double meals: two breakfasts, two lunches. I ate the sandwich. I ate the fries. People kept their hands away from me. It's one of the best kept secrets of breast cancer treatment. I gained weight. Like...10 pounds.
We arrived in St. Augustine the next day. Anne and Keith, his Mum, my Auntie Joan, my Mum welcomed us - even draped a huge Canadian flag on their garage door so we'd know which house was theirs. They encouraged us to walk along Micklers Beach, and relax. I felt embraced, at home, and Anne made this fantastic ham with a glaze that smelled of bourbon, cloves and oranges. It was perfect. And no, I didn't eat it all myself. And now I make it for almost every holiday meal I cook. It is more than bourbon, cloves and oranges. For me, this is a family recipe, cooked with love.
Bourbon glazed ham
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup bourbon
1 cup sugar
6 bruised cloves
2 tbsp grated orange peel
Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring the ham out of the fridge to warm up.
Whisk together the glaze ingredients. You can increase the amount of wine or bourbon (if you have a large ham), but I found that at the smaller quantities it kept its truth as a glaze. Sometimes it gets too liquid-y.
Skin the ham, but leave a nice layer of fat. Make a diamond pattern by scoring the fat in 45 degree parallel lines, being careful not to cut through to the meat. Then cross hatch the lines by scoring the opposite way. Poke a clove into the intersection of each line or in the middle of the diamonds. It looks beautiful.
Brush a small quantity on the ham.
Bake at about 18-20 minutes per pound. For a partially-cooked ham you're looking for an internal temperature of 155°F. If you are heating up an already cooked ham (not spiral cut), you need to reach an internal temperature of 110° to 120° - any higher and you risk drying it out.
Baste the ham a couple of times - but don't use the juices that collect at the bottom of the pan or you will make the ham too salty. In the last half hour start basting more frequently. And if you like, at the end, turn on the broiler and brown the top to your liking.
Let it rest for about 15 minutes. May you share it with those you love.