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Dec 13, 2011 08:50 PM

Crowd-pleasing ham. Is there anything better than Honey-baked?

Don't even think Fatted Calf and that company.

Pretend you are in the 1950's and serving Christmas ham to the family in that wayback machine. My Gatemalan family would not appriciate or even like something like FC.

I was all set to place a Honey-Baked order, and then I was in Trader Joe's today and their spiral cut hams caught my attention. So I figured I'd ask if Honey-Baked was as good as it gets in that category or if there is anything better.

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  1. Hmmm, bland TJ's ham or slimy, sugary Honeybaked. Not sure what to tell you. Is your family accustomed to eating meats as sweet as a glazed Honey baked ham?

    My mother soaked and baked old-fashioned Smithfield country hams when I was a wee one. What's ham like in Guatemala that can be replicated here?

    17 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Roasted fresh leg of pork, fresh ham, 'pernil', is more typical in Latin America than smoked or cured ham. Maybe it's the equitable and tropical (depending on altitude) climate, that makes curing harder, and less valuable (no well defined season for killing a pig).

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Ham in Guatemala is what we call bologna. I've never seen one outside of packaged fud and that was of the bologna type.

        The ham is a risk. I will have a backup lasagna. Pork is frowned on in Guatemala because it is ... um ... poor quality and not safe unless cooked a long, long time in tamales, deep-fried to death in chicharrons or carnitas. Actually the family didn't trust pork tamales all that much.

        I didn't get at first why pork was rejected with a look of horror. With a US mindset I asked if they ate bacon. Yep. Carnitas was a regular. So it wasn't personal taste, religious or cholesterol. It was real fear of tapeworm and trichinosis.

        They do like Hawiian pizza, so ham is not totally foreign.

        Yeah, I was afraid TJ's might be bland. Maybe I'll trot over to Honey-baked tommorrow and see how edible it is.

        I guess I could bake my own ham, but that involves some risk with my cooking skills. And other than turkey and lasagna, there's not another meat I can competantly, consistantly make.

        1. re: rworange

          Some of the HoneyBaked stores make sandwiches, so you can taste and decide.

          With that deepseated fear of pork, will the family be comfortable eating the spiral cut ham room temperature? Heating is not recommended.

          Wondering if Delikateski might have a nice Polish type ham.

          1984 Monument Blvd, Concord, CA

          Honey Baked Ham
          11 Colma Blvd, Colma, CA 94014

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Room temperature almost anything is not a problem. There never was actually ham in GT.Just pork legs. Since they don't have a Hawaiian pizza phobia, I'm thinking this will work ... and if not ... that's what the lasagna is for.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              With your Delikateski suggestion in mind, after picking up my sample of Honeybaked ham, I decided to give Euromix a try. On an impossible street to park in Oakland, there was a space in front. The food gods were speaking.

              Me: Do you have Christmas ham?

              Clerk with a heavy Eastern European accent: We have Russian ham.

              Me: Fine. Where is it?

              We locate it and it is just sliced cold cuts. So I ask if they have large hams and am shown the piece that was sliced up to make the smaller packages ... like piece of deli ham you'd see at the supermarket.

              Me: No, do you have bone-in ham?

              Clerk: No. We don't sell American ham.

              This stopped me. I asked her to repeat it. Maybe I heard wrong since my Polish ancestors would not consider a bone-in ham American.

              Clerk: There is a meat shop across the street.

              Now I'm excited. Cool. I found a new butcher in Oakland.

              Clerk: It is next to the dry cleaner. They sell good ham.

              A light goes on. The clerk at Euromix is sending me to Honey Baked ham.

              1. re: rworange

                During my one stop at Delikateski earlier this year, the one employee in the store was fairly helpful -- definitely leaps and bounds better than the folks at Euromix where everything's either frozen or was frozen. The real wonder was the few customers who stopped in were the friendliest and helpful folks (reminded on Berkeley Coop customers in the long checkout lines) who gave advice on what meats, wines, beers, and bread to buy and how to prepare.

                In contrast, Euromix is much more packaged cookies and candies.

                Call first before searching this place out because I don't recall seeing any hams in the meat counter -- mainly lots of different sausages and cold cuts.

                1984 Monument Blvd, Concord, CA

            2. re: rworange

              I had a Honey-baked ham over Thanksgiving. The sweet part wasn't the problem for me. It was very juicy, but overpoweringly smoky and way too salty.

              1. re: rworange

                You know, rwo, I sometimes think you and I spent time in two different countries. My Guatemalan family eats pork all the time: chops, shoulder, ribs, loin. I look forward to buying pork in Guatemala because it tastes like pork used to here in the States before the fat was bred out of it. My one complaint is that the pork shoulder never has any skin on it because they remove it to make chicharones. But I talked my favorite pork butcher at the mercado in Antigua into saving me a shoulder with the skin on and it was the best pulled pork I ever had.

                I've also seen what we'd call a traditional ham steak, prepackaged, at Paiz in the city. Most definitely not bologna.

                1. re: JoanN

                  It might be the difference of living in the country. Meat is left out unrefrigerated and often a relative of the pork is nipping at your ankles.

              2. re: Melanie Wong

                >old-fashioned Smithfield country hams<

                Authentic country hams, of which Smithfield is a very good example, are in another universe from other hams. So much so that some people don't like them, but that's never stopped me from serving Missouri county ham for which I know only one reliable source which is Burgers' Smokehouse in California, Missouri ( ). Their Attic hams are the traditional cure which includes not being smoked. Their Southern Smokehouse hams are a lighter cure and finished off in the smokehouse. Change your ham life :-


                Burgers' Smokehouse
                32819 Hwy 87, California, MO 65018

                1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                  I was just having a little fun with RWO. My ham wayback machine doesn't stretch back to the '50s, but my childhood memories of ham were either a Virginia country ham or an inexpensive supermarket ham than my dad put in his Kamado that later emerged from the re-smoke tasting like a million dollar winner.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I decided I didn't want an unhappy ham for Christmas but one humanely raised to keep the spirit of the season. The ghosts of porkers past from factory farms that CBS did a news story about were squealing in my mind.

                    The Bud's suggestion was BRILLIANT !!!

                    I never would have thought of that on my own. They are smoking the hams this weekend and cutting them to order.

                    The price ... an astounding $3.19 lb ... less expensive than TJ

                    The price of Honey Baked is $6.59 lb ... are they kidding?

                    I did do some ham hunting this morning.

                    Raley's won't have the spiral cut hams until Sunday. They also have Smithfield hams for $4.99 lb.

                    If you are on a budget, the Safeway 99 cent bone in hams (not spiral cut) were actually quite good looking and didn't have a lot of junk in them. As to their lives here prior to the dinner table ... say a little prayer for them that they are in hog heaven.

                    1. re: rworange

                      Good for you! I'll come clean and say that after seeing the clip of the factory raised pig that lives in a metal pen only the width of its body (so that it can't even turn around its entire adult life) I've never been able to buy supermarket pork again. Everyone has their own breaking point.

                      1. re: rworange

                        I've been sick and haven't had a chance to report back.

                        A friend got the Safeway ham and said though it looked meaty, it was loaded with fat.

                        I loved the Bud's ham and would recommend it to anyone. It was ham classic. IMO, worth the ride to Penngrove.

                        The fat was beautiful and just was a blanket on the lean, tasty ham.

                        As to the family's reaction ... mixed ... despite the taste test, i knew there was trouble when i pulled it from the oven and asked my step daughter to help carve it.

                        She stopped dead and said "Que animale?'

                        When I said pig the look on her face was like I was trying to kill her.

                        Seriously, despite loving the sample, because in our neck of the woods of Guatemala ,.. or neck of the sugar cane fields ... it was always jamon de pavo or pollo, I think she thought what she tested was some sort of smoked turkey or chicken.

                        It never occurred to me that someone didn't know real ham came from a pig.

                        The girls took a slice and pushed it around the plate while the guys wolfed it down.

                        1. re: rworange

                          Inspired by Melanie's enthusiastic review of Bud's corned beef, I called on Friday to ask if they were smoking hams ahead of Easter. Yes, I could reserve a half-ham for pick-up the next day, though I had to come in the afternoon because they were going into the smoker that evening.

                          Music to my ears.

                          My bone-in half ham was $3.19/ lb, and it looks gorgeous. I can't wait to eat it. I was going to have one of the hams from the NYT article Wednesday (Burgers) shipped in, but I'm very glad to have gone to the local source. I may try the plum glaze recipe from the Lee brothers in the article.

                          I would imagine pre-ordering would work during the coming week as well.

                    2. re: Melanie Wong

                      I found Trader Joes ham to be way too slimy - I gave it 2 chances thinking I had just gotten them on an off day. There was thick tangy slime on the ham both times. No thanks. Pretty much any other brand I have tried has been leaps and bounds better than TJ

                      1. re: mikedoc

                        That "slime" is jellied meat juices. That sounds like boiled ham rather than the good Niman smoked stuff TJ's sometimes has.

                    3. In the lower price ranges, spiral and honey-baked is pretty much all there is. But this article should help:

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: thomas64

                        Thanks. I know in my gut the Country ham would not go over and I wouldn't have the patience for it. Maybe I'll look around at Smokehouse hams if Honey-baked is not very good.

                      2. Costco has a co-branded Niman Ranch/Kirkland spiral ham.

                        Besides the ham, I'd ask what traditional sides would go with American ham that works well with the Guatemalan palette.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: ML8000

                          Macaroni or potato salad. Green salad. Rice. Peas and carrots. Sauteed mushrooms (worked at Thanksgiving) I'm thinking of maybe creamed corn for the novelty factor though the one thing that warms my heart and gives me some hope of better food days ahead is that a lot of conveniece food has been rejected.

                          1. re: rworange

                            One thing I never liked about ham was there's no natural gravy that ties things together like a turkey or roast. You can make glazings, sauces, etc. but I've never had good luck with that. I'd look for something that can tie the foods together...perhaps a pineapple sauce, chutney, etc., i.e., think Hawaiian pizza.

                            What about au gratin potatoes and yams? Those have the ability to bridge ham with other foods.

                            Beyond that, consider a New England meal with roast beef, gravy, mashies, bread pudding, the works.

                            1. re: ML8000

                              Yeah ... dried roast beef, turkey gravy was accepted but not loved, bread pudding I wouldn't do well and it is too out there and close to stuffing which was ... accepted at most. I'm sorry I didn't run lamb chops by them since they've never had lamb. Now it just gets too much for me convincing them to even try something unfamiliar. I have no lamp chops chops in me at this point.

                              You know, I think I'll pick up a half pound of sliced Honey-baked tommorrow and run it by everyone. Otherwise, at this point I might just be talked into a Jewish Christmas.

                              1. re: rworange

                                Does Honeybaked sell a half-pound sliced?

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  It has been 15 years at least since I last bought a Honey-baked ham. At that time the now closed Geary location would sell it by the pound if it was not the day before the holiday such as Easter. So, will see what they are up to now.

                                  A baked smokehouse ham is starting to appeal. Maybe I'll also stop by Brannigans or Bette's Oceanview and get a sandwich to go to test the ham appeal.

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    Honey Baked in Oakland only sells sandwiches.

                                    So I do my Easy Rider ... "I want a classic Honey Baked sandwich. Hold everything including the bread. I just want the ham in the sandwich and nothing else. I want my family to try it and see if they like it. I'll pay the sandwich price. I just don't want anything but the ham"

                                    Sweet girl who is obviously too young to have ever seen Easy Rider. She stops confused and suggests just the ham between two slices of bread. I say I will just throw it away. I just want the ham.

                                    She is about to refuse and looks over at the manager who obviously has seen Easy Rider from the sideways glance she is giving me. She nods OK quickly.

                                    I gave up and just asked for a sandwich with nothing on it at Brennans. Their rye bread is not bad.

                            2. re: ML8000

                              We got the Niman/Kirkland spiral ham at Costco. Lucky to find one that was less than 7 pounds, but now we're wishing we'd gotten one that was a bit bigger. I didn't put the glaze on it. Without the glaze, it's hard to compare to a Honeybaked ham. The Niman ham is the cured one, and it has a firmer and less mushy/slimy/wet texture than Honeybaked. We're still enjoying it for flavoring various things, e.g., hoppin' john and collards, julienned and sprinkled over jook, deviled ham.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                If you have any suggestions ...

                                Does ham fat have to be rendered to use it?

                            3. We like TJ's spiral sliced ham better than Honeybaked -- less bland and more like a traditional ham, if that makes sense. No fancy candy crust like HB, but that's OK. About a third of the cost, too.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Steve Green

                                Yeah, the price seemed really good. Did you get the uncured or the honey-glazed cured TJ ham?

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    They called it "Uncured" This is the ingredient list, copied from last year's thread that Melanie posted above.

                                    FULLY COOKED FLAME GLAZED: Spiral Sliced, Uncured, Nirtrate free
                                    GLAZED with: Sugar, Honey, Spices.
                                    Ingredients: Ham, Water, Honey, sea salt, sodium lactate, evap cane juice, spices, natural flavoring, sodium diacetate.

                                    I had decided to give it another try this year even though we weren't thrilled with it last year and posted accordingly. Last year's must've been an anomaly, because we liked it so much this time that we actually bought a second one a couple of weeks later -- notwithstanding the quote about eternity being two people and a ham. :o) (They were both small -- <4lb). We made bean soup and also ham, cheddar, and caramelized onion mini-pies with the leftovers.