Bruce wanted to develop a recipe that honored the first taste of the meat by using the simplest preparation: roasted, not fussed up. So here’s his basic recipe for a fresh ham. Yes, it requires several hours of slow cooking. Open another bottle of Pinot Noir and relax.
- One 8-to 10-pound bone-in fresh ham (see Notes), preferably from the shank end, any rind removed
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup maple syrup (see Notes)
1. Put the Dickensian joint in a large roasting pan, preferably one that’s shiny enough to reflect lots of ambient heat and not so flimsy that it tips willy-nilly when you pick it up. Set the oven rack as high as it can go and still afford the ham at least 2 inches of head space, Leave the roast in its pan out on the counter and fire the oven up to 325°F.
2. Mix the sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl. Wash and dry your hands, then smooth the spice mixture all over the ham’s external surface. Work it down into some of the crevices, but be careful to avoid any deep-tissue massage. A ham is a complex structure of muscle groups-too much massage and they can come apart like Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her.
3. Cover the whole kit and caboodle with aluminum foil, shove it in the oven, and leave it alone for 3½ hours, while you go do whatever it is you do when a big, sweating hunk of meat is roasting in your oven.
4. Peel off the aluminum foil. Baste the ham with about half the maple syrup, preferably using a basting brush. Take it easy so you don’t knock off the spice coating. Use small strokes-think Impressionism, not Abstract Expressionism. (Or just dribble the syrup off a spoon.)
5. Continue roasting the ham, uncovered this time, basting every 15 minutes or so with more maple syrup as well as any pan drippings, until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat without touching bone registers 170°F, about 1¼ hours. If it starts to singe or turn too dark, tent it loosely with foil, uncovering it just at the last to get it back to crunchy-crisp.
6. Transfer the ham to a cutting or carving board and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before carving into slices.
This recipe serves 16 and uses a 8lb bone-in ham.