Long ago, before the age of refrigeration, fresh pork that hadn’t been eaten during winter months was cured. Hams were ready to eat by Easter and became a natural choice for the main meal.
Times have changed, but ham remains the No. 1 Easter entrée. Let’s face it: Ham is tasty and much less trouble to prepare than, say, a Thanksgiving turkey.
Peter Lentz, owner of 640 meats at 6410 E. Riverside Blvd., in Loves Park, says it takes some know-how to make the most of a great ham, and he’s always happy to answer customers’ questions.
“Most people want to know exactly how to cook the ham, at what temperature and how long,” he says. But first, you have to buy a ham of good quality.
You don’t want to see a large fat cap on either end of the ham, Lentz says. Buying a good brand should prevent unpleasant surprises, like gristle.
Lentz suggests buying a lightly smoked, skinless, bone-in ham, without a shank. Spiral cut hams allow for ease when serving up slices.
“You want the bone-in ham to make sure you get the real thing rather than a processed version,” he explains. There are plenty of “fake” hams on the market.
Figure on a pound per person.
It’s already smoked and cured, so the ham needs to be warmed, not cooked. That can be accomplished by allowing 20 minutes per pound in a 300 degree oven.
The saltiness of the ham is well complemented by a sweet glaze, which is usually made from orange juice and brown sugar. Glaze the ham before cooking, or serve the glaze on the side. Cloves, pineapple, cherries, oranges, and apples are flavors that go well with ham.
Side dishes that pair well with ham include green bean or sweet potato casserole, baked beans and twice baked potatoes, all available at 640 Meats, along with many fresh salads.
640 Meats is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. ❚