Half the pleasure of eating glazed ham comes from a caramelized, crispy crust and the salty-sweet flavor it creates in each bite. A well-executed glaze always has three things, which also happen to be the things you don't get with the glaze some hams come packaged with: caramelized sugar, the right combination of sugar to acid and a formulation based around creating a crispy coating. Glaze forms a crispy coating when you add a leavening agent, such as baking soda, and caramelize it twice -- once when you make the glaze and again after you apply it to the ham.
Things You'll Need
Metal or silicone spoon
Main flavoring ingredient, such as flavored vinegar, fruit juice and hot sauce
Garnish, such as chopped fruit, nuts and fresh herbs
Alcohol, such as bourbon or brandy (optional)
Build a Glaze
Cook a combination of 2 parts white sugar to 1 part butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat until it caramelizes to a golden-brown color, about 20 minutes. Stir the caramel a few times with a metal or silicone-coated spoon while it darkens and remove the pan from the heat and stir vigorously if you smell scorching.
Add the main flavoring ingredient and about 1 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of caramel to the glaze. Flavored vinegar, fruit juice and hot sauce, to name a few commonly used glaze flavorings, all work with ham. The glaze will bubble vigorously when you add the baking soda and liquid.
If your main flavoring ingredient doesn't have a little acidity, add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to activate the baking soda.
Add garnishes to the glaze. Use anything that goes with the main flavoring ingredient, such as fresh herbs, diced fruit or chopped nuts, to name a few possibilities.
If you want to add a drizzle or two of alcohol, such as bourbon or brandy, to the glaze, do so now.
Cook the glaze until the ingredients homogenize and it has a creamy consistency.
Store the glaze in a food-storage container in the refrigerator if you're not cooking the ham yet. If you made the glaze while cooking the ham, leave it in the saucepan at room temperature to make it easier to reheat.
Paint the Ham and Caramelize the Glaze
Bake the ham in a 250-degree-Fahrenheit oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 F, about 45 minutes to 1 hour per pound. Pour off the drippings from the pan and let the ham rest until you can touch its surface without burning your hands.
Slice the rind from the ham and trim the fat cap to 1/4 inch. Slice through the rind lengthwise and insert the blade of the knife in the seam to make removing the rind easier.
Slice a 3/4- to 1-inch crosshatch pattern into the fat. The glaze will collect in the grooves and crisp up when you finish the ham.
Coat the ham with the glaze using a spoon. Turn the spoon over and spread the glaze over the ham, making sure it gets into all the grooves. Set the oven to 325 F.
Bake the ham until the first layer of glaze sets, about 10 minutes. Pull the ham out and coat it with a second layer of glaze.
Bake the ham until the glaze caramelizes and crisps up, about 20 to 30 minutes total. You won't have to rest the ham before serving it because it rested when you glazed it.
Soak the ham in water for 48 to 72 hours before cooking it to reduce the saltiness. Change the water every 4 or 5 hours. The ham and glaze will taste more balanced if you do.
Check the internal temperature of ham by inserting a meat thermometer in its thickest portion without touching the bone.
You can also make the glaze with a simple syrup base, or 2 parts sugar to 1 part water.