Friday, April 8, 2016

Cherry-Port Glazed Ham

A few weeks ago, I decided to get Emma started with swim lessons. The idea was that she would learn some basics before taking lessons in the outdoor pool during the summer. Paul and I both view swimming as an important life skill and really would like the kids to learn to both love and respect the water. So far, our plans have not been going so great. Matthew lived in perpetual fear of the water for the first five years of his life. He would scream as if someone were chasing him with a chainsaw whenever the bath water was turned on and the strength of both parents was required to pin him down and get him clean. During the hot summer months, he would constantly ask us to turn the sprinklers on but, unlike most kids who enjoy running and jumping in the shooting mists, he would lazily sit back on a lawn chair and just watch the sprinkler move back and forth, occasionally interrupting his reverie to point out a rainbow that formed between the sprays. Going to the pool with him was never an option unless we felt like being clawed and scratched by the surprisingly sharp nails of our pathetic child as he clung to us like a baby monkey.

Then, Emma came along and seemed to gradually help Matthew face his fear of water. When Emma began loving the bath, suddenly Matthew became more accepting of it. When Emma loved going to the pool and seemed to have a lot of fun splashing and playing in the water, Matthew began to venture into the water without prodding. However, he was still overall very wary when it came to getting his head wet or getting in deeper than his belly button. Thankfully, enrolling him in swim lessons last summer seemed to solve that. Now, he was probably the laziest student ever because the swim instructor would take each child one by one off the wall and help them "swim" from one side of the pool to the other. The only thing the child had to do was kick their feet to aid in propelling themselves forward. Matthew would just hang back and enjoy the free ride, his legs remaining limp in the water. However, by the end of his lessons he did manage to dunk his entire head under water and no longer seemed afraid of hanging out in the pool. In fact, he loves going to the pool now. So, we are going to keep up the swim lessons with him this summer with the hope that he will now develop some actual technique. We shall see.

Back to Emma. The girl loves water in any form. We actually need to give Emma lidded cups because she simply cannot control herself around open containers of liquid - she must plunge her fingers in and swirl and splash about, making a gigantic mess. So, I felt that Emma was old enough to begin learning how to actually swim and figured that she would perhaps do even better than Matthew since she has no fear when it comes to water. When registering her for the lessons, she was actually too young to make the cut-off but a friend of mine who works at the YMCA managed to put in a good word for us and got her into the class.

After all that effort, I am embarrassed to report that Emma's lessons have thus far been a mixture of disaster and frustration. Emma is the youngest in the class by about two years - and it shows. She has no attention span. When the instructor is talking, I can see her little eyes wandering about completely unfocused on the lesson. I have had to corral her back to her lesson a couple of times because she will begin to move down the wall away from the lesson area because she is bored and doesn't feel like being there anymore. At one point, she slipped under the rope separating the pool to go into the more shallow area because she saw that some girl had brought in a Disney princess water toy and she wanted to inspect it. The instructor counted the number of kids on the wall and noticed that one child was missing and freaked out for a minute before seeing Emma sitting about 30 feet away in the shallow area of the pool playing with the princess water toy. She was not happy when he went to retrieve her and took off her life vest and threw it at him. I was mortified. All this happened on the first day.

For her second lesson, things went slightly better in that Emma did not do any retreating from the lesson. She seemed to be paying attention and even enjoying herself, although she did spend a little too much time splashing this other little boy in her class. The kids were learning how to float on their back during this particular lesson and when it came time for Emma's turn to float on her back with the aid of the instructor, she seemed to be doing really well! I began to relax and thoughts of how proud I was of my brave little daughter began floating through my head. This was all very short-lived, for I noticed the instructor suddenly grab Emma and motion me over as he raced her to the side of the pool. Apparently while she had been casually floating along, she had informed her instructor that she "had to go poop." Such a lady. So, suddenly I found myself dragging her to the bathroom as fast I could where, go figure, nothing happened. She returned to her swim lesson (after much struggle to get her suit back up!!) and then, about five minutes later, loudly proclaimed her need to relieve herself, and the scenario repeated. This happened two more times and then her lesson was over. By the end, I was exhausted, Emma still had yet to actually use the bathroom, and the major accomplishment of the entire lesson was that Emma had floated on her back for about 15 seconds. I came home to spout my frustrations to Paul, who found the entire situation incredibly funny. We have another lesson today so we will see what mischief she cooks up.

With all the drama these little ones add to life, some things like mealtime have to be kept more simple. This is one of the reasons why we have been eating a lot of ham lately. We bought a bunch of hams around Christmas time because our grocery store was basically giving away their holiday ham surplus. Ham, along with turkey, is one of the few meats that the kids could eat every single day and never tire of it. I think it's the salt content, but whatever the reason I know that I can serve ham for dinner and there will be no complaints. And sometimes, at the end of the long day, this tired Mama just wants to sit down and eat a meal without hearing incessant whines about how boxed, neon-colored cheese pasta tastes so much better than the swill currently being passed off as dinner.

Of all the ways we have been cooking ham, this Cherry-Port Glazed Ham is the absolute best version. Now, the sauce is out-of-this-world fantastic and complements the ham beautifully, but even if you do not choose to make the sauce, the cooking method for the ham ensures a moist, juicy product. Too often, glazed hams end up being a bit dry. Not the case with this recipe! This is the only technique we will be employing in the future when it comes to our spiral-sliced hams. We served this for our Easter dinner and it was a big hit! No complaining, just some happy munching from the baby to the Kindergartner!

Cherry-Port Glazed Ham
from Cook's Illustrated, November 2007

Note:You can bypass the 90-minute soaking time, but the heating time will increase to 18 to 20 minutes per pound for a cold ham. If there is a tear or hole in the ham's inner covering, wrap it in several layers of plastic wrap before soaking it in hot water. Instead of using the plastic oven bag, the ham may be placed cut-side down in the roasting pan and covered tightly with foil, but you will need to add 3 to 4 minutes per pound to the heating time. If using an oven bag, be sure to cut slits in the bag so it does not burst. 

For the Ham:

1 spiral-sliced, bone-in half ham (7 to 10 pounds)
1large oven bag (plastic)

For the Cherry-Port Glaze:
½ cup ruby port
½ cup cherry preserves (we used Bonne Maman)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Leaving ham's inner plastic or foil covering intact, place ham in large container and cover with hot tap water; set aside for 45 minutes. Drain and cover again with hot tap water; set aside for another 45 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Unwrap ham; remove and discard plastic disk covering bone. Place ham in oven bag. Gather top of bag tightly so bag fits snugly around ham, tie bag, and trim excess plastic. Set ham cut-side down in large roasting pan and cut 4 slits in top of bag with paring knife.

Bake ham until center registers 100 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 1 to 1 1/2 hours (about 10 minutes per pound).

While the ham is baking, make the Cherry-Port Glaze. Simmer port in small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and mixture is thick, syrupy, and reduced to 1 cup, 5 to 10 minutes; set aside.

Remove ham from oven and increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. Cut open oven bag and roll back sides to expose ham. Brush ham with one-third of glaze and return to oven until glaze becomes sticky, about 10 minutes (if glaze is too thick to brush, return to heat to loosen).

Remove ham from oven, transfer to cutting board, and brush entire ham with another third of glaze. Let ham rest, loosely tented with foil, for 15 minutes. While ham rests, heat remaining third of glaze with 4 to 6 tablespoons of ham juices until it forms thick but fluid sauce. Carve and serve ham, passing sauce at table..

1 comment:

  1. We had a huge in ground pool that was very deep for diving so at nine months old we introduced both our children to the water and both took off like a fish, and immediately became excellent swimmers with ability to hold their breath for l o n g times under water. Never one second of fear and from then on loved the water all their lives. Our daughter actually saved my life in the pool when she was 9 years old....amazing! Waiting too long to introduce them to water can be a life long problem. We are so glad we did it when they took to it like it was just natural. We watched other parents really go through it trying to get the kids to swim....and the kids were not happy.