For me -- and for many Southerners, I presume -- Easter is the first real mark of spring. We dress our houses and tables (and even ourselves) to impress, pulling out all the stops from the freshest flowers to the fanciest flatware. We join together to celebrate a time of joy, renewal, and life. And then we eat! Here's a look back at my own Easter weekend celebration, with a recipe for a classic Southern ham, warm and glossy with a mustard glaze.
This year's Easter spread at my in-laws' house
A typical Easter spread in my house might include deviled eggs, fried chicken, smashed potatoes, and vinegary green beans along with a basket of cornbread and biscuits passed along with honey butter and homemade jam. And for dessert, it's virtually impossible to choose between juicy strawberry shortcakes or my grandma's chocolate pie. (So why choose? Take both!)
But no matter what the fixins', the real star of the show is always an enormous spiral-cut ham shellacked in a sweet and tangy brown sugar-Dijon glaze. It's a showpiece for sure, and its goodness just keeps giving. The leftovers promise ham biscuits and sandwiches for days, and the ham bone means a big ol' batch of Spanish bean soup. It's quintessential spring.
The symbolic ham, although an Easter staple, represents all of the good things to come — dining al fresco, blooming gardens, flourishing farmers' markets, weddings, parties, and showers with friends. Gone (hopefully) are the dreary, coldest days and in with the bright, bold colors of spring. And consider this ham a warm Southern welcome for you all.
Yep, those are my babies in the background with their eyes on the prize. Little Robert on the left actually managed to snag one!
Brown Sugar & Mustard Glazed Ham
Serves 8 to 12
large (8 - 10 pound) good-quality smoked ham (we like spiral cut)
dark brown sugar
Dijon mustard, or more to taste
Preheat oven to 275°F. Whisk together the brown sugar and mustard and set aside.
Place the ham in roasting pan fitted with a wire rack (which will lift the ham above its juices). Cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or 15 minutes per pound.
With 30 minutes left of cooking, remove the ham from the oven. Brush a thick coat of the brown sugar-mustard glaze over the ham. (Glaze can be warmed in saucepan on medium-low heat to make it easier to brush, if desired.) Return to the oven, uncovered, to finish cooking. Allow ham to rest for 10 minutes and serve with the remaining glaze on the side.
This is my future mother-in-law's "Easter ham" recipe, but no need to save it for Easter; it's delicious, incredibly easy, and will feed you for days. (And days.)
The good scotch in the good glasses.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)