Caramel apple of my eye


Oh, yes, you will click this to see a larger version. You can’t not click it.

This year’s cider-baked ham turned out even better than last year’s, from eye appeal to moistness right through to flavour. That’s steam at the upper left immediately after its final glazing in the oven with highly-reduced cider, dark brown sugar, and freshly ground pepper. We tented this loosely and rested it for fifteen minutes before tucking in.

The big Christmas meal – traditionally on Christmas Eve in my house – was the ham, twice-baked potatoes with sour cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano, roasted corn, and cornmeal biscuits:


The twice-baked potatoes come under the fancy-sounding guise of Potatoes Suzette, even though the Kennedy White House recipe, served as part of a lunch with the Canadian Prime Minister, has only a few points in common with the original pommes de terre Suzette. The Americanised version is a sort of mish-mash of Suzette and Roxelane potatoes. My version includes more egg yolks, sour cream, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. The roasted corn was from Trader Joe’s freezer case and was better than I expected – their corn is nicely sweet and roasted well. The biscuit recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated.

The ham itself, recipe also from Cook’s Illustrated, is made with nearly a gallon of cider (fresh, not fermented) with eight cups used with cinnamon and cloves for a several-hour brine, another cup inside the oven bag the ham is heated in, and four cups reduced for over an hour to a sticky, caramelly 1/3 cup. That 1/3 cup is used to paint the ham not just for more apple flavour but so the dark brown sugar-pepper mixture will stick properly to the ham during the final glazing at 400F/200C.

I’m happy to report that I got the smoked ham from the same place I got one last year, Blood Farm, which suffered a devastating fire in the middle of the night of 29/30 December 2013. The four-alarm blaze destroyed the building that housed the smokehouse, meat processing room, offices, and retail store, and the Blood family was initially unsure whether they would even attempt to recover. Hundreds of producers and customers and even people from the state of Massachusetts agricultural bureau convinced them to rebuild. An independent fund was set up to support idled employees in the intervening months. They finished the new building in September and the smokehouse restarted operations shortly after that. I also bought some of their fairly spectacular bacon when I picked up the ham last week.

Dessert has been delayed to today and will be Blueberry Grunt, a real favourite around here.