Let’s revisit the Easter ham, shall we? You know the one – its spiral cut, smoked and cured within an inch of its life, crusted in brown sugar and, if not handled with care, dry. This ham and I have crossed paths many times. We’ve had some really good times. We’ve had some not so good times. We thought about getting together again this Easter, but Raphe and I decided that it’s time to move on to something more moist, less salty and just more… interesting.
This is when I remembered hamonada, the sweet and savory braised hamonada my aunt always prepared for New Year’s celebrations. It’s essentially pork braised within an inch of its life in pineapple juice and sugar. A perfect solution to tough, dry hams.
The decision to make a hamonada was not made lightly because, in all honesty, my track record with hamonada sucks. I first made it for New Years in 2005-2006. The traditional stove method (demonstrated at Asian in America) was fine, but I took the “ham” part a little too seriously. I simmered a traditional American cured ham in pineapple juice for about an hour and a half. At the end it tasted like a traditional American cured ham with some salty pineapple juice on the side. Not what I was going for.
The next attempt took place in early 2007, when a pork shoulder found its way into a roasting pan with some pineapple juice, but only stayed in the oven for the hour and a half necessary for stove top simmering. The time and the cooking temperature (375? 400? I can’t quite remember) resulted in a rubbery, dry pork roast.
This time, though, I think I’ve finally got it. Raphe picked up a beautiful uncured, untrimmed 10lb ham, which we decided to partially trim. The trimmed side sits in the braising liquid and absorbs all the sweet, sweet flavor. The untrimmed side protects any exposed meat from drying out and adds natural juices. We took this ham and braised it at a low temperature (300 degrees F) all freaking day. It went in the oven at 12:30pm and didn’t emerge until 6pm. This finally gave the desired moisture to the meat. The braising liquid began as pineapple juice and enough apple cider to make 4 cups, seasoned with the usual suspects (vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaf, pepper), as we like to keep extra sugar to a minimum. After 5.5 hours in the oven and 20 min on the stove the mixture reduced to a sweet brown syrup. Finally, a hamonada worthy of a holiday centerpiece.
- Kitchen scissors are indispensable for trimming fat and skin from meat. Get some.
- In hindsight, I should have just thrown all the pineapple in there without this silly puree business. Next time, next time.
- Keep in mind that we’re dealing with a very fatty cut of meat here. There will be a good 1/2 c. of fat sitting on top of the sauce at the end. I say embrace it and eat the skin, too. I suppose you can skim off the grease, if you really want to do it. Just don’t tell me about it.
|1 uncured bone-in ham, 8-10lbs||Pathmark|
|3lb pineapple pieces or 1 whole pineapple, pureed and separated into pulp and juice||I&D Interfoods|
|Enough apple juice to make 4 cups when added to reserved pineapple juice||Cortelyou Greenmarket (Red Jacket Orchards)|
|1/4 c. vinegar||C-town|
|1/4 c. soy sauce||NY Mart on Ave U|
|1 large bay leaf||various|
|2 T minced garlic||C-town|
|small palm-full of peppercorns||Bobby Dept Store|
- Puree pineapple, strain juice from pulp overnight. Reserve all liquid and 1 cup of pulp.
- Trim skin and fat from half of the ham. The trimmed half of the ham will sit in the braising liquid and the remaining skin and fat will face up
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Brown and combine
- Brown exposed sides of roast in the dutch oven (optional if using a roasting pan that is not stove-top safe)
- Position the ham so that as much sits in the bottom of the dutch over or roasting pan as possible.
- Add all other ingredients to the dutch oven. You may need to wiggle the roast around to get the liquid on all sides. Bring to a boil.
- Place in 300 degree oven. Braise for 3.5 hours covered.
- Increase heat to 325. Cook uncovered for 2 more hours to crisp up the skin and reduce the liquid. Don’t worry about the meat drying out – the layer of skin and fat left on the top of the roast will retain moisture.
- For extra moisture and flavor we “shot up” the roast with some of the cooking liquid. Raphe is especially fond of this technique.
4. Finish and Serve
- Remove hamonada from oven and let cool until you can safely move the roast to a serving plate – about 10 minutes. Cover with aluminium, and let rest another 20 minutes.
- If desired, skim some of the fat off the top of the remaining liquid and reduce the pineapple sauce.
- Slice off chunks of pork. Serve over rice with pineapple sauce.