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It’s that time of the year again!! We have just gotten over the US market going crazy with pumpkin spiced EVERYTHING!! Now it’s time for every foodblogger/food stylist out there to showcase 1 million and 1 ways to do the Christmas Ham. Figured it would be rude of me not to contribute so my 6 fans ( hi mum, dad and wifey – not sure who the other 3 are yet but i’ll remember their names soon – it’s a long list after all!). This year I’ve taken inspiration from these beautiful vanilla beans I have been working with from Slo Food Group and the fact citrus is so readily available all year round here in Australia. So if you are as big of a fan as I am of maple syrup too then check out my maple vanilla Christmas ham. Trust me – this is a cracker and will defo make the family wowed by your kitchen skills.
For this recipe I have teamed up with my local butcher Peter Augustus and they got their hands on some WICKED Byron Bay hams. What makes this super cool is not only is the ham delish but Byron happens to be my most favourite place in the world!!
EVERYTHING you need to know to make Maple Vanilla Christmas Ham
While it may seem like the easiest thing in the world to lob a ham in the oven and rub it with something sticky, sweet and acidic there are many layers to making it. It takes time, energy and patience to perfect the perfectly glistening ham and hopefully with my tips below you will be on the way to even your 90 year old Gran snapping pics for insta!!!
The whole reason for cooking the ham again is the glaze so I guess you could say this is the most important thing! It’s about finding balance of sweetness, acidity and flavour. In my version I have added spice by studding the ham with cloves. Old school but standard really! Then I rub the ham in a little 5 spice along with adding a little to the glaze itself. I used vanilla to not only add a wow factor but it adds a beautiful taste too and with vanilla it’s a perfect marriage. We get the acidity from the blood orange (way better than using vinegar) – this brightens up the glaze a lot, adds a unique flavour with it’s orangey/raspberry flavour. Quite often you see marmalade used so this is my way of going down that road. Oh and trust me fresh juice is best. The sweet component comes in the form of maple syrup – offering caramel, vanilla and woody notes it works perfectly with all the other flavours. Not to mention it’s healthier than brown sugar!
When making this glaze it’s not gonna look like one at all but as it reduces and thickens up you are gonna be left with something you will find hard not to guzzle! Once the ham is ready to go then using a pastry or paintbrush go to town on the ham. Repeat this regularly throughout the cook.
This is key. Once you have done the hard work by balancing the flavours and reducing your glaze to the perfect consistency a little more than lobbing the ham in the oven and drinking a 6 pack is needed. Firstly water. ALWAYS add water to the bottom of the pan. Without the water all you will have a burnt hard mess on the bottom of your pan which isn’t only IMPOSSIBLE to use to paint your masterpiece but it’s a bloody pain to clean too.
Every 15 minutes – that’s when you need to baste. This will help create that beautiful sugar sweet crust on the ham and give it it’s wonderful colour. The basting also keeps the ham moist and intensifies the flavour too. When basting the first couple times you will most likely use the original glaze you made but as time goes on you will be reaching for that wonderful reduced liquid you see at the bottom of your roasting tray.
For all the women out there who get their hair done you will know what I’m talking about and for all the men (like me) who have to drop something to their ladyfriend at the salon as she has bloody forgetting something again and again you too will understand. For the rest of you, just ask! Anyways – one key thing when doing your ham is to make sure it’s level so that the glaze spreads evenly. Truthfully though even if you do that you may find some parts of the ham get darker quicker than others. Don’t stress (too much!) just grab yourself little bits of foil and cover those spots up. Your ham is defo gonna look a little ghetto during the cooking process but you can thank me later for this tip!
You have 2 choices here. If you use a good reputable butcher then he or she will happily remove the skin for you. If not, then read my tips in how to remove it here. Honestly it’s so simple I reckon my 3 year old can do it so don’t stress. Firstly run the knife down either side of the ham starting at the meaty part and working your way down to the bone. Careful not to dig into the skin. Also leave a little of the skin on around the bone – you won’t be eating it so save yourself the hassle! Then run the knife around the bone part to where the side slits come down too – you with me? Then, just gently peel it back. Be as gentle as possible as you want to try leave all that nice fat on so that you can get a nice criss cross on top and have the glaze work it’s magic.
Nope you won’t win diamonds by doing this nor will you get a cheap Christmas present for the misses! This is where you cut some diamond shapes into your ham. The reason for this is so you get those beautiful little hedgehog bits for the glaze to find a home. Oh and also to have a good point of reference for those all important cloves. You know that jar you bought ages ago and were wondering when the hell will you ever use em. BINGO!! This part is pretty simple – starting at the top left (or right) run your knife diagonally to the bottom in 1″ intervals. The key here is not to cut into the ham and to make sure the criss crosses aren’t too close. If you make too many then the cloves will just fall out. Once you have gone from top left to bottom right then repeat from top right to bottom left. Simples!
There are 2 schools of thought on this one. 1. Bang it up high get that glaze browned up and cooked a little quicker or 2. Lower the heat, glaze it perfectly and make sure the glaze doesn’t burn. Tell me, which one do you think is the better choice? I’ll leave it there for you to decide yourself. Clue – one of the ways has a word in bold italics…………………..
If you didn’t figure out which option to choose from above yet then this will solve the “mystery” for you. Sometimes things need to be hot, hard and fast (like searing a steak – why, what were you thinking?) and other times it needs to be slow and measured (like cooking a ragu or glazing a maple vanilla christmas ham). Basting every 15 minutes of a 1.5 hour cook does seem a bit painful alright but it’s the right thing to do. It will yield the best results pretty much everytime. Grab yourself a magazine or a book or heck do it the night before and enjoy a btl of vino alone in the peace of your kitchen!!
When all else fails just paint! Get out the kids colouring mat and go to town. I’m sure the family will appreciate a nice hand painted picture instead of a lovely maple vanilla christmas ham!! JK. Once the ham is out of the oven it’s where the real painting happens. All that sweet sticky glaze down the bottom of the pan is just SCREAMING to go somewhere and no better place to put it than all over the ham. The ham needs to rest for 20 – 30 minutes before slicing. Sadly for you your rest isn’t over EVER – you’re a parent! Grab you basting brush and just go to town with the glaze on the ham. This is where you will get the real shine and thick coating as the glaze cools on the ham.
I think it’s fairly safe to say you can figure this bit out yourself. Enjoy!
As good as this ham is Christmas dinner wouldn’t be Christmas dinner without some of these crackers. If you are looking for further inspiration then click on some links below and make this Christmas the best one yet!
Smashed Potatoes by yours truly
Gin & Beet Cured Salmon by yours truly
Caprese Christmas Wreath by Alexandra Cook of ‘It’s Not Complicated’
Christmas Spritz Cookies by Marcella Cantatore of ‘Marcella In Cucina’
Christmas Salad by Adrianne Jamieson of ‘Sweet Caramel Sunday’
Instant Pot Apple Cider by Sandhya Hariharan of ‘Sandhyahariharan’
Gingerbread Pancakes by Pamela Reed ‘Brooklyn Farm Girl’
Christmas Morning Breakfast (cranberry pomegranate baked oatmeal) by Sarah Schlichter of ‘Bucket List Tummy’
Easy Egg Nog by Amy Foster of ‘The Fibre Pantry’
Summer Strawberry Salad (perfect for Aussie Christmas) by Phenie Ooi of ‘The Devil Wears Salad’
Happy Cooking and Happy Eating Friends!
- 5 - 6 kg Christmas Ham skin removed
- 1 tbsp 5 spice
- 1 tsp 5 spice
- 20-30 cloves
- 1 vanilla bean seeds removed
- 2.5 blood oranges zested & juiced
- .5 blood orange cut in 3 circular slices
- 250 ml maple syrup
- 250 ml water
- Place all ingredients in saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium heat, stirring regularly.
- Reduce glaze to 1/4 of original volume (approx 20mins) keeping an eye so it doesn’t boil over or burn
- Remove skin gently by slicing down either side of the ham working towards the bone. Careful not to slice too deep.
- Cut around the bone to the cuts down the side and gently start to peel the skin back
- Once skin has removed cutting approx 1” apart slice through the fat diagonally from top left to bottom right
- Repeat diagonal cuts from top right to bottom left so that you have cross crosses/diamonds
- Place a clove inside each diamond you have cut. Also place 3 pieces of blood orange over the ham and stud with cloves (you can decide where you want them to go)
- Baste with glaze all over and place in oven @160c for approx 1.5hrs
- Every 15mins remove ham from oven and baste all over with remaining glaze and also pan juices
- Once ham is glazed to your liking & internal temp is 60c remove from oven, allow to rest for 20mins and paint with glaze from pan
- measuring utensils
- roasting tray
- pastry/paint brush
- chef knives
- chopping board
- take ham from fridge 1 hour before cooking so it’s at room temp
- don’t be afraid to use foil to cover any bits that look like they are burning
- ensure ham is level when baking so that the glaze spreads evenly
- make sure there is ample water in bottom of pan. If it burns it will stink, make a mess and leave you with no glaze
- keep basting after removing from the oven while it rests. The more you paint the better the affect will be. It ain’t like applying make up 😉