Easter dinner, for most, means Easter ham. And with money being tight this year it’s more important than ever to get the most for your meat dollar. That means selecting the best ham, and then making the most of the leftovers.
Ham it Up: The Morning After
Whether your Easter feast was top-shelf country ham or proletariat ham from the can, you can do more with the leftovers than resign yourself to a week of ham sandwiches for lunch.
Luckily, few things offer so much in the second life department as the humble ham. Here are three suggestions:
1. Save that rind! Many smoked hams come with a rind of smoky skin on the outside that is normally removed before serving. Don’t make the mistake of tossing it away. Instead cut it into 3 inch chunks and freeze it until the next time your split pea soup or lentils need a little pick-me-up. Simply toss a chunk of rind or two in with your beans and cook as usual for legumes with a rich and smoky edge.
2. Sausage? Yes, you can. One of my favorite things to do with ham scraps is to make sausage with it. It may sound impossible but it’s much easier than you might think. Combine your ham, chopped finely in a grinder or food processor, with an equal amount or more of ground pork, plus seasonings, and mix by hand in a bowl. Make sure that all the meat is cold and that you add some cold water as you mix them or your sausage will be dry. I like to season my sausage Cajun style and then form into patties or links. I use plastic wrap as a casing and stick them in the freezer until the next time I feel like making jambalaya.
3. Stock up. All that’s left now is the bone (assuming you bought a bone-in ham, which you should have because they’re cheaper). What to do? Providing you have some room in your freezer, now is the perfect time to haul out the stock pot and simmer your ham bone for a few hours. Once the bone has fallen apart at the joints you can strain out the chunks and freeze your ultra-porky stock in plastic containers for use the next time you need to fortify a soup or stew.
The Main Course: Which Ham is Right for You?
Of course before you get to leftovers, it's important to select the right ham.
There are a lot of hams out there. Between canned hams on the bargain aisle and smoked country hams, your ham choices are relatively vast.
Below is a run down of the different types of hams that you’ll find, how to prepare them, and what they’re good for.
Just a few notches up from Spam, canned ham is generally made from smaller pieces of ham that have been pressed together, cured and canned. So long as you don’t think too deeply about what your ham might be made of there is no shame in the canned ham game. Since it has been canned with heat and pressure, your ham is fully cooked and your only challenge is to heat up the ham while forming a delicious layer of browned meat on the outside. A thin rub of brown sugar, freshly cracked black pepper and maple syrup will do the trick. As canned hams are generally small, they don’t take long to heat through in a moderate oven.