For the Easter holiday this year I wanted to come up with something unique and when I found this recipe by one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Nigella Lawson, I simply could not resist. The fact that she uses an entire 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola is certainly an indulgence considering my usual avoidance of sugar but hey, isn’t indulgence what holidays are all about?
After reading Nigella’s very fitting introduction I thought I would give it a try.
Aside from changing the language to suit a U.S. kitchen I altered the recipe only very slightly; turning the ham halfway through braising to create an even “burnish” from the cola, and placing the cloves strategically so that a little more flavor would soak into the ham. For more even cooking I would also recommend starting with a (close to) room temperature ham.
I also tried to describe the scoring a little better…it’s basically just lines drawn on the surface with a knife in roughly a diamond pattern. This scoring allows the fat to baste the ham while baking keeping it nice and moist. Don’t let the scoring scare you…it does not have to be perfect…mine certainly wasn’t!
On the day that I cooked this ham I made the mistake of discarding the cola after removing the ham from the pot. Although the ham turned out wonderfully flavorful and moist, in retrospect I would like to have tried reducing (boiling down) some of that sweet and spicy liquid until thick and then drizzling it over the sliced ham for both a fancier presentation and added flavor. Do try that…I know I will next time around.
Nigella’s Ham in Cola
For the braise…
1 – 4 to 5 pound, lower sodium ham, bone in
1 – 2 Liter bottle of Coca Cola
1 – Large Onion, halved and sliced
For the glaze…
12 (or more) whole cloves
1 to 2 Tablespoons – Dark molasses
2 Teaspoons – Mustard powder
2 Tablespoons – Light brown sugar
Place the ham, and sliced onions into a large stew pot or Dutch oven. Pour the entire bottle of Coca-Cola over all and bring to a light boil over medium-high heat. When the cola reaches a boil, lower the heat, cover, and maintain a gentle simmer for 2-1/2 hours carefully turning the ham over at the halfway point. Remove the ham after 2-1/2 hours and place on a cookie sheet to cool.
Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees.
When the ham has cooled just to the point that you can work with it, trim away the skin and most of the fat from the outside, leaving just the slightest layer of fat. Carefully score the ham, slicing 1/8 to ¼ inch deep diagonal score lines around the outside every inch or so. Then turn the ham and slice score lines in the opposite direction, forming a diamond pattern as the scored lines intersect.
Massage the outside of the ham with enough molasses to create a nice glaze then carefully and evenly distribute first the mustard powder, then the brown sugar over that. Poke whole cloves into the ham at the points where the score lines intersect so that they are snugly seated and will not fall out. Bake the ham uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes until the glaze has become sufficiently browned and bubbly. Remove the ham from the oven and rest until cool enough to slice.
Of note from Nigella: “for braising the ham in advance and then letting the ham cool, take ham from the refrigerator, glaze it according to the recipe, and give it 30 to 40 minutes to sit at room temperature. Place in a 350 degree F oven for 30 to 40 minutes, then turning up the heat if you think it needs a more crispy exterior.”
I saw her make that on a show years ago and have always wanted to try it myself. Reducing the cooking liquid into a sauce would probably be great.