Saturday, December 24, 2011

Surprise Ham Loaf

The holidays are here and with them, ham. Ham says Christmas like nothing else, so when I was invited to a Christmas pot luck (at the home of my dear friend and your local Tupperware Lady, Ms. Karen Finlay), I just had to prepare a ham. But while flipping through Betty Crocker’s 1960 Party Book, I came across the instruction to “Make your favorite ham loaf mixture”, and I nearly died. MY FAVORITE HAM LOAF MIXTURE? Wait, not only do I not have a favorite, I didn’t even know there WAS such a thing! And so, I HAD TO MAKE IT.

Or, I did and I didn’t. I couldn’t leave well enough alone, for in researching my “favorite” ham loaf (aka looking it up, since I had never before ever made one and did not have a “favorite” to turn to), I came upon a Ham Ring. Now I am just addicted to rings and other molded delights, so I decided to combine the two concepts, making the ham ring as directed, yet including the “element of surprise” as suggested by Betty.

The Ham Ring recipe I found comes from the somewhat terrifying Beta Sigma Phi International Cookbook of Meats (including seafood and poultry) which is un-dated, but must hail from the mid-1960s. This massive tome offers no less than 2000 recipes, including many (many) variations on the same dish – for example, there are 32 different recipes for stew. The good sorority sisters most certainly had a ham loaf recipe, or 20. I picked one that sounded the least gross!

As far as ingredients go, I was not able to locate the “surprise”: pickled peaches or apricots. I went with regular canned peaches and hoped for the best. Also, I didn’t see ground cooked ham for sale, so I used my cuisinart to process a regular canned ham. Oh and by the way, did you know that canned ham contains the exact same ingredients as SPAM? I very nearly bought SPAM to use for this experiment, but I was overwhelmed by processed food and decided to save the SPAM for another time. (Like the next big earthquake.) Otherwise, all the ingredients were normal things I recognized and could find easily. I set out to create the masterpiece of Christmas, my Surprise Ham Ring. The results, sadly, were disastrous.

Was there not enough binding? Too many bread crumbs? Was the ring not greased well-enough? Was Venus in retrograde? Whatever the cause, the ring would not stay together as I “un-molded” it. I ended up having to scrape it out of the pan and dump it into a serving bowl with a few orange slices sadly draped on top and sprigs of parsley protruding. Surprise! The ring was not. I was so glum I didn’t even taste it. HOWEVER, I ended up with a large quantity of left-over ham, so a week later I braved the Ham Loaf yet again. This time I decided to make a loaf, using the same recipe, but not attempting the ring. I also used dried apricots this time since I was out of peaches, because I still wanted that darn surprise. And now I can truly say I have made a ham loaf. But… why? I genuinely like all the flavors, even the apricot “surprise”, but the texture is NOT RIGHT! My feelings on the entire concept of Ham Loaf are to question its very existence. Why grind something up and mix it with breadcrumbs, when it is easier and more satisfying to leave it in the original form and just dump some jam on top?

In the interest of public health and safety, I am bound to say: DO NOT BOTHER WITH THIS! I am including the recipes here if you feel you must, but really, I don’t see the point. Instead, take it from some folks who know ham, the two handsome sons of cooking goddess Paula Deen! I’ll take Jamie and Bobby Deen’s ham any day! (OK fine, even if they didn’t have any ham at all I’d be OK with them, tee hee) Seriously, if you want ham, their recipe is for flavoring a spiral cut ham and takes much less time, less ingredients, and makes less mess. HELLO!?!?!

Enjoy, folks, and y’all have a Merry Christmas now, ya hear?

Surprise Ham Loaves, Betty Crocker’s Party Book 1960

Heat oven to 350 degrees (mod.). Drain pickled peaches or apricots. Make your favorite ham loaf mixture. Fill greased custard or muffin cups half full with ham mixture. Put one picked peach or apricot in center of each cup. Add more ham mixture to make cup ¾ full. Bake 45 to 60 min.

Caramel-Orange Ham Ring

The Beta Sigma Phi International Cookbook: Meats (including seafood and poultry) undated, mid-1960s

2 eggs

½ tsp Tabasco sauce

1 tsp dry mustard

3 c. fresh bread crumbs

2 lb ground cooked ham

1 6-oz can frozen orange juice

½ c. water

1/3 c. brown sugar

1 tsp whole cloves

Beat eggs in large bowl; stir in Tabasco sauce and dry mustard. Add bread crumbs, ground ham, orange juice and water; mix well. Sprinkle brown sugar and whole cloves in bottom of 6-cup ring mold; add ham mixture, packing firmly into pan. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Turn out onto serving platter; garnish with parsley and thin orange slices. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Mrs. Mildred M. Reiberg, Pres. Xi Beta Gamma Clare, Mich.

The Deen Brothers’ Fig-and-Orange-Glazed Ham

Food Network Magazine, 2009

1 spiral-sliced half ham

1 cup fig jam

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Grated zest of 1 orange

1/3 cup fresh orange juice

1. Preheat the oven as directed on the ham package and follow the instructions for baking the ham. Remove the ham from the oven about 30 minutes before the end of the warming time.

2. Meanwhile, combine the jam, mustard, and orange zest and juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, just until the jam melts (do not boil). Spoon half of the glaze over the ham and bake for the remaining 30 minutes.

3. Remove the ham from the oven and spoon the remaining glaze on top. Transfer to a cutting board and carve.

Active: 15 min. Total: about 2 hours (12 min per pound) – Serves: 12

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