Recipe: How to Cook A Maple-Spiced Fresh Ham

The best way to buy meat, hands down, is to buy an animal direct from a local farm. Small, local operations are your best bet for the best quality at the best price. Thanks to market demand, more and more farms are raising grass-fed/pastured cows, pigs, chickens, and goats.

We recently bought a 600lb cow and a 240lb pig from Den Besten Farm in Bridgewater, MA. They raise pastured meats and handle their own butchering on site. The on site butchering is such a plus when the centralized USDA meat facilities are so filthy and contaminated with e coli.

This was all packaged and frozen for us and put in our new, upgraded, energy-efficient storage freezer. And the best part, the price per pound (hanging weight) was far below what any grocery store can touch for pastured meat. The cow was $3.20/lb and the pig was $2.20/lb. That’s for all cuts, from ground to tenderloin. This should last our household well over a year.

There were two exceptions, however, and that was the pork bellies, a shoulder, and two hams were left fresh. They were intended to go to a local smokehouse. Unfortunately, the smokehouse was infuriatingly difficult to reach by phone, and I was unable to schedule a time to bring in my meats.

Trimming the fat off the ham. So much lovely pastured lard for soap!

Trimming the fat off the ham. So much lovely pastured lard for soap!

There were only two choices: freeze it or cook it. I was able to get the pork bellies and a shoulder in the freezer, bringing it to capacity. That still left me with two fresh hams, each weighing about 20lbs! Nothing left to do but roast them.

Very simple, fall spices in this rub.

Very simple, autumn spices in this rub.

My husband helped out here and trimmed the fat from the hams. This brought the weight down to 16lbs and 17lbs on each ham. That fat will be rendered into lard and made into soap. I mixed up some spices to rub all over the meat, and roasted in a covered pan. (I did one ham a day, not both at once.) About two-thirds of the way through, I drizzled the ham with maple syrup, and let it continue for another 30 minutes. This was the gorgeous result.

Glorious fresh ham

Glorious fresh ham!

Ingredients

Adjust amounts and time as necessary for the size of your ham, 20-30 minutes per pound.

  • Fresh ham, about 17 pounds 
  • 1Tbs coconut palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon, ground
  • 1 tsp allspice, ground
  • 1 tsp cloves, ground
  • 1tsp nutmeg, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups, maple syrup, divided into 1 cup
    Note- you can substitute 5 tsp pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg

Directions

  • Mix the sugar and spices, and coat the ham. Gently rub it over the entire surface.
  • Cover the ham, and allow it to sit in the fridge covered for 8-24 hours.
  • Remove ham from fridge, and preheat the oven to 325°F, and cook, covered, for 5 hours, basting every 30 minutes
    (I only basted once an hour, with the 2nd ham, and didn’t notice any difference. I just had too many other things to do to bother basting it every 30 minutes.)
  • After 7.5 hours, pour 1 cup of the maple syrup over the ham, and put back in the oven. Wait 30 minutes, and pour the remaining maple syrup over the ham. Cook for another 30 minutes.
  • After a total 6 hour cooking time, a meat thermometer should read 170°F, not touching the bone.
  • Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

To adjust your cooking time, depending on your oven, it should take about 20-30 minutes at 325°F per pound, depending on your oven. The only way to really know if your ham is done is to check it with a meat thermometer. I have a huge roasting pan, and it was easy for me to add potatoes and carrots to the bottom of the pan. Delicious! A nice and simple follow up to this dinner might be my Paleo Pumpkin Pudding with Maple Cinnamon Whipped Cream.

Now, I know that this sounds like a lot of time. But, mostly, it’s just time spent sitting in the fridge and time spent in the oven. It’s not like something that requires constant attention throughout the cooking time. In the meantime, go plant some kale for a fall garden, peruse Ravelry for some holiday knitting ideas, or just relax and have a glass of wine while this pork makes your house smell incredible.

Now, for just a tiny bit of math… After trimming the fat which will be used for soap making, and after removing the bones which made lots of delicious broth, both hams came to about 30lbs of meat. This represents approximately $66. Compare this to a 14-16lb ham from the Honey Baked Ham store (yes, I know, it’s smoked and cured, but you can do the same at home as well) goes for between $93-$95. So, twice the meat for about two-thirds the cost. You have no idea how that makes me grin.

As a side note this was a fresh ham. It wasn’t smoked or brined or cured in any way prior to cooking. A fresh ham will not have that super pink coloring, which is the result of using sodium nitrite in the cure. Apparently, the same coloring effect can come from using celery (or celery juice, I need to read more about the process), which naturally contains lots of natural sodium nitrite.

Now, after cutting the meat from the bone, we made stock in the crockpot from the bone, and ended up with approximately 30 pounds of meat. Obviously, there are plenty of leftover pork recipes to come!

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