STYLE

THE AMERICAN TABLE: Recipe for fresh ham with cloves and brown sugar

03/11/2015 12:08 EDT | Updated 05/11/2015 05:59 EDT
When I think of spring menus, I instantly think of asparagus and the fresh ham that my grandmother made every Easter. The pork was studded with cloves and slathered with brown sugar and mustard before roasting. And it made the entire house smell amazing.

But these days, I tend to do most of my roasting on the grill. So I've adapted my grandmother's recipe, and was thrilled that it ended up being deceptively easy. All you really need is the forethought to order a fresh ham from your butcher (many grocers don't normally stock them) and the patience to let it cook slowly over indirect heat.

A fresh ham, sometimes called a "green" ham, is pork at its most basic — not cured, not smoked, not cooked. The meat is so sweet and succulent, and the texture is meaty, not compact and slick as a cured ham often is. Also, the meat of a fresh ham remains white when cooked. I promise it will taste like the best pork roast you have ever eaten.

All of which is to say, fresh hams are very different from the usual cured or smoked hams people are accustomed to. But in my family, those hams were always more for sandwiches, not holiday feasts.

The preparation is quite simple and decidedly old fashioned. Don't be tempted to switch the yellow mustard for Dijon. Though I generally prefer Dijon, in this instance yellow is better. The combination of yellow mustard and dark brown sugar forms a heady crust that is punctuated by the whole cloves that dot the natural fat cap on the ham.

Some people leave both the skin and the fat intact, but I find that removing the skin and leaving just the fat on the ham allows the mustard-brown sugar-salt slather to better infuse the meat. And the deeply caramelized crust you get from the long cooking time is something that you want on as many slices as possible.

Depending on where you live, you may need to order the ham up to a week in advance. You also can also ask the butcher to skin the ham for you, but make sure you ask that the fat be left intact.

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GRANDMOTHER ODOM'S FRESH HAM WITH CLOVES AND BROWN SUGAR

Prefer to roast this in the oven? Follow the recipe as directed, but set the ham on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 325 F for 5 to 6 hours.

Start to finish: 6 hours (30 minutes active)

Servings: 15 to 20 (depending on size)

12- to 15-pound fresh (uncured, unsmoked) ham (bone-in leg of pork)?

2 tablespoons whole cloves

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

9-ounce jar yellow mustard

Prepare a grill for medium heat, indirect cooking. For a charcoal grill, this means banking the hot coals to one side of the grill and cooking on the other side. For a gas grill, this means turning off one or more burners to create a cooler side, then cooking on that side.

Use paper towels to pat dry the ham. Using a sharp boning or paring knife, remove the skin but leave the layer of fat just beneath the skin (alternatively, you can have the butcher do this). Score the fat by making diagonal cuts from right to left, then again across the original cuts to create a diamond pattern. Press a whole clove into the points each of these diamonds.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, salt and mustard. Rub the mixture all over the exterior of the ham.

Place the ham on the cooler (indirect heat) side of the grill, either directly on the grates or in a V-rack roast holder. Grill the ham for 5 to 6 hours, or until the thickest part reaches 175 F to 180 F. The outside should be darkly caramelized and the inside should be very tender.

Transfer the ham to a serving platter and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Nutrition information per serving: 370 calories; 150 calories from fat (41 per cent of total calories); 16 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 140 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 47 g protein; 740 mg sodium.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and author of three books, including "Taming the Flame."

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