Sunday, March 20, 2016

Easter Ham...What's On Top Matters!

What's On Top Matters!
It's a wonder how we associate certain things in our lives with past memories. When I was a young child, maybe around 11, my mother had passed away and my Dad was doing his best to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. It's that last part that often comes back to me in waves of nostalgia.

As I remember, for the first several weeks after Mom passed, we ate a lot of Spam. You know, that mystery meat packed in a can. Lots of Spam. Spam with home fries. Spam with canned macaroni and cheese (that were in the shape of O's), Spam with baked beans. You get the picture.

Anyway, we must have began to grumble because he eventually hired a woman to come in and cook meals two nights a week. And why I can remember her name, Mrs. Gizzlebeck, and not what I was looking for yesterday, escapes me. But I do remember her frying pork chops and pouring some 7 Up into the cast iron pan to make gravy. It was amazing! I didn't realize it then, but it was my first exposure to that wonderful combo of sweet and savoury. I think of that often, especially at Easter when I'm picking out a glaze for the ham.

Pork, smoked like ham, or fresh, has always paired well with the sweetness of fruit. Which is my favorite part of Easter! When I grew out of impatiently waiting to eat the ears off of the chocolate bunny (okay, I would still do that if there were chocolate rabbits in my house), the aroma coming off of the peaches and brown sugar dripping into the salty juice of the ham sends me back to a young child smelling 7 Up breaking down pork chop drippings.

So when it comes to glazing a matters how this ends. Okay Adele fans, it's my favorite line on here new CD and it applies here! Having a fantastic glaze to bubble over the top of the ham the last 30 minutes is so important to impress your holiday guests...and your palate. There are so many glaze versions available, you just have to find one that has ingredients that appeal to you. Check out below:

After cooking a whole ham studded with gloves;
Mix 1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup prepared mustard
2 tbls cider vinegar.
When the ham is about 30 minutes from making it's exit from the oven, brush the mixture over the top.

Very Tasty:
1 cup of honey
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp dry, ground mustard
1/2 tsp cinnamon.
Mix together and baste the ham, pouring remainder over the last 30 minutes.

Grandmom Tasty: 
1 20 oz can of pineapple slices. Cover the ham with the slices and save the juice
Put a whole clove in each pineapple ring
1 jar maraschino cherries. (cut in half and lay the cut cherries on the clove)
Then mix the reserved pineapple juice with 3/4 cup of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of yellow mustard as use as a baste.

Ode to Mrs. Gizzlebeck Tasty: (And the one I'm using this year):
1.5 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup grainy whole mustard
2 tbls apple cider vinager
6 oz of Dr. Pepper
Mix together and use as a baste the last 30 minutes of cooking.

I can't end this without acknowledging the great cook my Dad became. He is the one who taught me how to make homemade soups on winter Saturdays and an Easter dinner from start to end. My Dad's "never let them see you sweat" mantra served him well in the kitchen and in life. And lucky for us, he passed it down to his kids!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

St. Patricks Day and Corned Beef & Cabbage...An American Tradition

  • St. Patrick's Day in Ireland is a little more low key than here in the states. As a matter of fact, when I was in Ireland, people told me that tourist trips from the Emerald Isle to New York City are very popular in March.

  • Part of the reason is that St. Patrick was a missionary who was anointed a saint after helping to bring Christianity to Ireland. So it is more of a religious holiday. And the fact that, until recent years, the pubs were closed on March 17th, (the assumed date of his death) in religious observance, which definitely held the type of celebrations that we have here to a minimum in Ireland. But times are changing. Now, in an effort to promote tourism, parades and party's are in abundance in large cities like Dublin.  

Here, as we all know, St. Patrick's Day is a party to be had! The Kilroy"s, friends of mine, host an annual party that is a two week event! The week before for food preparation and the week following for detox. There will be pans (several) of Sheppard's pie, corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and whatever else over 100 people will bring. And of course, the whisky, Guinness and Baily's will be flowing. Along about nine o'clock, musicians will stroll in and play the music of Ireland. St. Patrick's Day the way it is meant to be America. 

Speaking of corned beef and cabbage, Americans have made this a must have on the day we celebrate the life of an Irish missionary. It's hearty, it's flavorful, and easy. Really easy. Especially when using a crock pot. Just throw everything in and leave for work. Done. Most corned beefs come with a seasoning packet containing peppercorns, allspice, bay leaves, course salt, etc. If not, there are several varieties available. Below is an easy version that is amazing! NOTE: I serve mine with a grainy mustard. But that is totally a personal preference. (But a strong recommendation!)

Corned Beef & Cabbage


Place the vegetables on the bottom of the crock pot

Lay the brisket on top

Rub the seasoning's into the meat.

Add about 8 cups of water

Cook on low for 7 hours

It is that easy! A great meal. A great America, anyway!