HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Can I bake a ham that isn't smothered in sugar and fruit?

I don't understand why pork always has to be paired with sugar and fruit -- especially ham -- as this combination has always struck me as insipid. Does anyone have a recipe for baked ham that does NOT involve pineapples, apricots, apples, pears, figs, sugar, honey, or other dessert items?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I roast mine in a 350 degree oven just like I do a turkey. Not basting, no fruits, no glaze. If it's looking too brown, I'll cover it with foil.

    4 Replies
    1. re: jcattles

      coleman mustard ,cider vinegar and black coffee sort of a tangy redeye gravy .Onions at the bottom of pan

        1. re: jcattles

          I do the same thing. I've never been a big fan of glazed ham.

        2. No, there's no law, bodacious. A little sweet is always good with ham, simply because salty and sweet complement one another. But it can come from the sugars in onions, which scunge had mentioned, or other roasted or caramelized veggies such as carrots and parsnips.

          The best ham I ever made (i.e., my friends still talk about it) did have fruit (Morello cherries), but you can skip that. What really made the ham is that it was basted in a spicy white wine. Wish I could remember which one--but I just started out with a little bit of it in the pan and basted it intermittently after the ham began to add pan juices.

          I also did a ham once in a similar fashion using Champagne, while the ham rested on a generous bed of sliced fresh fennel bulbs and (simple enough) corn kernels, mixed frozen out of the bag with the fresh fennel. There the corn added the sweetness.

          1. I am not suggesting this, but I did see Patty Labelle make a ham on Martha Stewart and she made a Dr. Pepper glaze. I thought Martha was going to have a coronary. It was priceless.

            I usually use a mustard glaze with very little sugar and use mixture of hot dog and dijon mustard. Have also done an aged balsamic vingar glaze -- this was a Mario Batelli idea.

            2 Replies
            1. re: pengcast

              Either hot dog, or aged balsamic ... I love it! I would love a slice of Patti LaBelle's Dr Pepper ham.

              1. re: foiegras

                When I didn't have any Coke around, I used root beer once and it was great. I've used Dr Pepper too, such an easy baste.

            2. My all-time favorite way to cook ham is to encase it in a rye dough and then pour cognac (or bourbon) between the meat and the case. It roasts in a very slow oven for a long while, and when you crack off the shell, the meat is so tender you could almost eat it with a spoon. The cognac gives the meat a nice "glow," and it is not icky sweet as with fruit.

              4 Replies
              1. re: ChefJune

                Wow, that sounds wonderful. I'd love to do this; can you provide a little more detail?

                1. re: ChefJune

                  That sounds wonderful - any chance on getting more info?

                  1. re: mitchell25418

                    I ended up baking my ham in mustard/sherry, and it came out OK, not great (tho hubby loved it). The cola/soda idea is intriguing, but the rye dough is what really catches my eye. How do you do that (what temp)?

                  2. re: ChefJune

                    Could you please post a recipe for your ham cooked in rye dough and cognac?
                    By the way, is this an uncooked (but smoked or brined) ham you use? Or is it an already-cooked ham that you are actually heating up rather than cooking?

                  3. Absolutely! I'm with you, but would use a stronger word than "insipid." It's gross and a waste of great pan drippings. Why would you do that?
                    If you like fruit with your ham, serve some type of relish, pickled or spiced fruit, or chutney along side it.
                    The drippings and leftover ham/hambone can be used for soups and other dishes without having to wash off the sugary stuff. Ick!

                    Actually most hams caramelize beautifully without a thing on them. You can score the skin in a decorative pattern if it pleases you. Serve with some good mustards and the skimmed drippings.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: MakingSense

                      My kind of ham - not pimped up! Those pineapple ones with cloves sticking out everywhere just give me the willies. Thanks for a reminder of what hams should taste like.

                      I like to cook a ham on low & slow for several hours, slice & then put back in its own juices & reheat the next day.

                      Condiments, chutneys & pickled items as sides give a much broader taste. You can serve both sweet & savory items & let the guests choose.

                      1. re: cstout

                        Yup. That sounds perfect. Thanks for the reassurance.

                        1. re: cakrill

                          Oh yes, cook the ham in a roaster pan with the lid on, or a cast iron skillet with a lid or covered with foil. Covering is important so it won't dry out.

                          Basting with its own juices is important while baking. Do this often. Do not let bottom of pan get dry. Keep adding a cup or so of water during the cooking process. You want to have a good amount of liquid at all times. Cook with skin side up so fat rolls down over the meat & into bottom. I turn the ham upside down about the last half hour so skin is laying on bottom. This will soften the skin, release more fat juices & make the ham more moist. Some folks like to have a crackly skin though - your choice.

                          Good luck!

                    2. I don't mind a good ham glaze, but the usual goopy brown-sugar thing I find kind of annoying, not to mention damned hard to clean up after. Some fruit preserves or marmalade, thinned with a bit of vinegar and brushed on, is just about right in my books. I think the one I liked best had that kind of glaze made with ginger marmalade.

                        1. I too HATE sweet ham. If it's pre-cured, I throw it in the oven as is, on the grill or in the electric smoker with out chips and slow roast it.

                          1. Painted down with Dijon or grainy mustard, peppered heavily,and baked in white wine. Yum. Or Mayland-style, stuffed with greens and braised.

                            1. My mom gave me this idea and every time I make a ham it comes out mouth watering tender and delicious!!
                              In place of all fruit or sugar, use a liter bottle of diet 7-UP. Make sure the ham is covered toughly, but baste often. If you like a crispy coating, leave the foil off for the last 10 minutes or so.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Cautiouseyes

                                But the sugar in non-diet soda crisps up so nicely.....I made a note on my recipe not to use diet in the future.

                              2. A little late, but I often just shower the outside of my ham with some garlic, salt, and pepper. I used a spice rib rub last time - January in fact - and that was yummy too.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: hippioflov

                                  Here is a recipe for a Jerk spiced ham we had a Christmas, big hit. good flavour profile.

                                2. Most of the alternative suggestions listed on this thread do involve a sweetness - cider vinegar, soda, pickles and white wine all have a sweet undertone.

                                  Ham on its own has a strong, gamey and salty flavor which is why people add something sweet to it - to balance out the flavors. I don't think I've ever had a baked ham that had no sweet notes added to it so it's an intriguing concept to try a straightforward savory ham. Do try and let me know.

                                  1. Boy, you hit it right on the head. I like to use leftover ham for other recipes and always cook up the last bits and the drippings for soup but I don't want the sweet taste for those uses.

                                      1. re: Joebob

                                        That's what we call Alton Brown's recipe - the coating (crushed gingersnaps, brown sugar, mustard, and bourbon or apple juice) is highly addictive. However, the crust does not reheat well.

                                        The gingersnaps, while sweet, are not cloyingly sweet. You could probably skip the brown sugar too.

                                      2. Hey, I'm 75. You have to speak in "elderly". Are you talking about coke? We used to drink that.

                                        1. Well, still no really non-sweet recipes. Artificial Sweeteners don't count.

                                          1. Roast in a pool of hard cider, basting occasionally. First had ham cooked this way at The Ship in Porlock Weir, England, many years ago. Loved it. Has to be good cider, though.

                                            1. I usually bake a smoked ham preferably on the bone a shank portion. No salt ,strong black coffee and and cayeene as a baste. I've added allspice also (when I remember ) Yes a liittle vinegar.NON SUGARY great leftovers

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. I like ham with cloves, black pepper and apple cider vinegar. I also like it without the apple cider vinegar.

                                                Edited for another suggestion: Fermented tofu. Cover the ham in fermented tofu and let it marinate for a couple of hours first before cooking (I like it more with ribs, but its nice with a ham too).

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: merrua

                                                  The cloves and black pepper was how my mom always did it. It's delicious.

                                                2. We don't like sweet foods. For Christmas, I bought a black pepper ham. After bringing it to room temperature, I covered it with spicy brown mustard and put it my crockpot with some ginger ale to keep it moist. Kept basting it until it was warmed through. Was tasty and tender.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: THoey1963

                                                    Another vote for mustard here! I tend to boil it first for most of the cooking time, then rub it with a strong* mustard, (maybe a sprinkling of sugar as well, but not necessarily), stud it with a lot of cloves (1" grid around the side) and chuck it in a hot oven about half an hour before serving to finish.

                                                    *I use Colman's English Mustard, which is a fairly strong blended mustard and the default one over here (if you say mustard to someone in Britain, this is what they think of). It doesn't work anywhere near so well with either wholegrains or weaker dijonnaise, and certainly won't work with the sort of weak stuff that you get on hot dogs!

                                                  2. Just look up Alton Brown's recipe for picnic ham. Comes out perfect every time.