What a delightful thing it is to awaken to the savory aroma of smoked ham, and the warm banter of a house full of contented family. It was Easter, and as the day would have it, we had some family over to the pit to celebrate our Savior’s victory all those many years ago. And after the festivities were done, and our bellies were filled, we sort of bandied off to various sectors of the house, some to play games, others to watch a movie perhaps, and still others, like me, who sought a comfy locale in which to go “belly-up” for a bit. And that’s what I done did. The long-honored and highly esteemed privilege of the pit master. I took a nap.
Wake Up and Smell the Ham
Not all that exciting, I suppose, but for me, you understand, it was an event to rival a home run in the World Series. Okay, I have low standards, but even so, I love to nap. It’s my hobby these days. One of which , I find, I seem to get better and better at with advancing years. There is just something about a well-placed nap that sets a bloke off right. It syncs a soul into the proper speed, perhaps. A worthy speed for disciplines of patience, such as the BBQ Arts, but also an over all suitable gait for general life enjoyment as well. You see, taking a nap slows you down, and that right there is the most important thing it does. It says to yourself and the world around you, that for a while at least, you’re in no hurry. That you’re content in this present moment, and you’re doing precisely that which is well with your soul. Oh, I adore a good nap.
Thus, I melted into the couch with an abundance of soft pillows and drapey blankets. The soothing banter of family took up the acoustic back ground. Some movie also, played quietly on the TV. There is something intriguingly intoxicating about background murmur. The sounds you hear, but don’t really listen too. They ensconce around you like an acoustic gramma blanket almost. Anyways, I wiggled in, pillows situated just right. My eyes drooping like a pair of wet underwear. And my deeds as a pit keeper met yet again, for another Easter. Indeed, a belly full of ham and a long string of “Z’s”. I was content, but before I doze off, let me tell you a little more about this Easter ham. And how it went and came to be.
Hams are easy smokes, by and by. Unless you buy them green, or uncured, all the work is already done for you. Shucks, you don’t even have to cook it if you don’t want to, as most ham is cooked and ready to eat cold, right out of the package. In point of fact, most hams come smoked already too. So what’s a pit master need really to do then with a ham? Well, the obvious answer is to smoke it again! And that’s just what we did. The double smoke!
Match The Smoke
If you ever want to amp up the flavor of your run of the mill ham by ten fold, this is how to do it. Look on the package and see what kind of wood was used to smoke the ham, and then sort through your wood larders and see if you’ve got the same. Match the smoke if you can, just so you can maintain a certain tidiness about things. If not, apple wood is an excellent choice. Hickory too, and pecan wood is always wonderful as well.
Whilst the smoker was coming up to speed, we rubbed the ham down in a cheap yellow mustard. Rubbed it all over like a bronzed Ecuadorian smearing on his sun tan lotion. The mustard rub is not for flavor of course, which many newbies think it is. Nay, it is your adhesive agent, varnished there to help hold your rub longer to the ham. And our rub today was about as simple as it gets – brown sugar. Feel free to add a little cinnamon and nutmeg to the ensemble, as I forgot to do that in my enthusiasm. We also lanced a few pineapple rings to the old ham for to serve as a self-basting sort of mechanism, but in truth, we did it mostly because it looks cool.
From there it was a slow ride in the Weber Smokey Mountain, at 225 degrees, bathed in a cloak of hickory smoke. A span of clock reaching about 3 hours, I should say, until the internal temperature of the ham reached 135 degrees. That is more than enough time to practice your pit master posture, in your favorite BBQ chair. Lovely beverage in hand, the world twirling slowly about you. Stately plumes of wood smoke curling from your old pit damper. Song birds rejoicing from yonder tree tops. This is our time, people, our privilege patron to the Smokey Arts!
Near the end of the cook, we glazed the meat lightly with some home made maple syrup, fresh from my brother’s tree. Don’t get too much better than that, folks!
And so it was, after the festivities were done, and our bellies were filled, we sort of bandied off to various sectors of the house. To do our bidding as it were. And it wasn’t too long before I was buried in a warm blanket, belly-up, head listing partial to the left, with a faint trail of drool accumulating in my down stream lip pit. The soft banter of family, a full belly, and the warm confide of a nap. Man! And for a while at least, and maybe even longer than that, all was right on Easter Day. Amen.
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him – Romans 6:9
Pit Date: Easter Morning
Pit Weather: Cool. Light breeze out of the northwest.
Two cute Chickadees lit on the feeder outside the patio door, chirping their song for the morning at large. Yapping it up, like tweety birds do, and poised to flirt, if not for the nearest shrubbery, then with each other. Classic signs of spring time in Minnesota. You see it everywhere. Squirrels, ducks, bar tenders, you name it. The males of the species putting on a bit of a show, or a rather over-the-top exhibition, if you will. On my morning commute last week, in point of fact, I came upon two wild turkeys, strutting up the sidewalk. One of them, the male I presume, was proudly puffed up, it’s tail fanned out, bold and beautiful, as it did a little disco dance right there along side the road. Stomping around, flaunting his tail feathers and such. Goofy creatures I thought, as I drove past with an air of smugness and superiority and general awe. I was sure glad that my species at least, had come far enough along in life to not have to resort to such humbling, petty measures. Well, leastwise, not all of us males would do such things. Certainly not this male. That is until I smoked the Easter ham. Indeed, I may have had a small relapse then, to my more primitive side. I digress.
You see, I was milling about the house Easter morn, getting the Weber Smokey Mountain ready for the day’s culinary sortie, and I was coming in from the garage with a brand new bag of charcoal perched on my shoulder, when I caught sight of myself in the mirror.
“Shoot” I bellowed, “Now there’s a ruddy looking bloke!”
Ruddy. In my words, it means manly, and rather pleasant on the eyes. A condition usually spawned from a life out-of-doors.
I paused momentarily, to fully grasp the sight. I sported a light-weight red flannel smoking jacket, clashing with a pair of blue and green flannel pajama bottoms, brown leather boots with tongues that which hung forth like the fleshy namesakes of two over-heated bull dogs, and an old black ball cap that has seen the sweat of a thousand days. Not exactly a Sears and Roebuck model, but if flannel had a poster child this day, well, it was me!
The sound of my bride coming down the stairs snapped my attention clear of my evident self lust, but not enough so, turns out, to resist striking a manly pose for her, just the same. As her foot steps grew closer, I adjusted the 20 pound bag of charcoal on my shoulder, so she could better glimpse my bulging biceps, and taut mid section. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but listen, it’s my blog, and if I want a taut mid section, well then so be it. Anyways, my chiseled Norwegian jaw line took rather well in the morning light, and my gray steely eyes were trained on the metaphoric mountain tops whence she made her landing at the foot of the stairs.
“Wow, you’re wearing a lot of flannel!” She croaked, looking right at me, “Have you started the ham yet?”
“Well, yes, I’m getting there in due time“, I said, whilst nonchalantly adjusting my pose . “Must not rush the pit processes you know.”
“Excellent“, she said, as she began to sort through the morning paper.
I waited a few moments for a comment on my ruddiness… Nothing. I strutted past her with my bag of charcoal aloft, considering something relevant from the disco era to engage in, but I couldn’t think of anything, and soon gave up and headed for the patio. She was right tho, I best get the ham started, I guess. And I reckoned not even a turkey gets it right the first time. Anyway, here is how I lit up the pit.
Known in the BBQ sciences as the Minion Method. It is the choicest of techniques for operating the Weber Smoke Mountain. It’s simple to do too. Simply dump a chimney of fiery hot coals into a donut of unlit coals. Done. The hot coals will slowly light the unlit coals next to them. And those coals in turn will light up the coals next to them. And so on. We did an article a long while back that goes more in-depth on this technique, The Long Burn: The Method of Jim Minion, and if you ever want to delve deeper into the smokey arts, it would be a good read for you. Anyways, once the pit was up to speed, 225 degrees, with a few chunks of pecan wood smoldering away, and after we scored the ham for better smoke penetration, we slathered the it in our finest cheap mustard first, then hit it over with a homemade ham rub consisting roughly of the following:
Home Made Patron Ham Rub
- 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
- 1/4 cup Turbinado Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon Ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
Now here is where the pit does its magic. And where a pit master proper is to simply stay out-of-the-way. And that’s what I did. Doing such in a semi-reclined Roman banquet sort-of-way on the couch, which just barely allowed me to consume thy lovely beverage without the hassle of sitting up straight. But this tactic soon faltered, of course, and with the shrewd hands of gravity, I soon found my self “belly up”, with not a care in the world. Eye lids growing heavy, something educational played on the television, tho I couldn’t tell you what. I didn’t care. I was smoking meat, and for a while at least, that was all the entertainment I needed. I was exactly where I wanted to be, doing precisely that which was well with my soul. And I may or may not have dozed off during the high rigors of BBQ here, whilst those wonderful, pecan-scented tendrils of wood smoke pillared into beautiful, April sky.
Long about 135 degrees internal temp, about 4 hours, I stirred up enough motivation to concoct a simple maple honey glaze for the ham, and varnished it on in turn. Here is the recipe we used for the glaze. It weren’t too bad!
Honey Maple Glaze
- 1/4 cup Honey
- 1/4 cup Maple Syrup
- 2 tablespoons Butter
At this point, we opened all the vents on the smoker to full throttle. The hotter it gets, the better things caramelize. But it turns out the smoker was low on fuel, and didn’t want to go much higher than it already was. But we muddled through it anyways, glaze and all, for poetic reasons alone. It is not shameful to use the oven tho, not to worry. Do what you gotta do. I just felt like ending the cook where it started- on the pit. Like I said, for the poetry. But keep an eye on it during the glazing process, less your sugars conspire against thee in a siege of burnt tidings upon your dear ham. It’s too late in the game to lose it all now. When your ham reaches 145 degrees internal, it’s ready for your people. Go any higher than that, and you risk drying it out.
And that is how a turkey smokes a ham on Easter day. Amen.
Smoke Date: November 28, 2014
Location: Pond-Side Pit
Outside Temp: 23 Degrees F/Pit Temp: 251 Degrees F
About two miles away, there is a store. A big store, as stores go, and today they offer the very best deals for to sooth the mass consumerism that which has spawned upon it’s very flanks. And shoulder-to-shoulder the covenant die-hard will dutifully tread to and fro amid the fields of commerce. Racing head long to get their paws on that which they easily lived without just yesterday. Today is different, however. Today is Black Friday. The herds are on the move again. And we here at this blog know just how to handle such nauseum. We are well schooled, you see, in the art of crowd avoidance techniques. Indeed, how to and with great effect, lay low from the masses. Thus, it is time to head out to the pit, of course, and smoke our Annual Black Friday Ham!
A light, but abiding sleet taps rapidly over the black enameled lid of the smoker. It’s almost up to speed now. Cherry smoke is stabilizing. A cold, November breeze swirls over the snow-encrusted pond, and mingles through the naked branches of the old Cottonwood tree. And the Chickadees flirt about, perch-to-perch, frolicking, or doing what ever it is that Chickadees do. I nary question their motives anymore. They are perhaps the hardiest little birds I know, spending the winter long living out-of-doors, seemingly giddy to be alive. Always fluffy. And always active. Our stalwart mascot of the winter pit! Anyways, let’s head inside shall we and get to that ham.
We prepared two things to get this ham started. A liquid base and/or baste. And a simple, sweet rub. Here is the recipes for both
Honey Ham Baste
- 1/3 Cup Apple Juice
- 1/3 Cup Orange Juice
- 1/3 Cup Pineapple Juice
- 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Honey
Bring these ingredients henceforth to a nice simmer, for to marry the flavors appropriately.
Patron Ham Rub
- 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/4 Turbinado Sugar
- 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ginger
- 1/2 Teaspoon Paprika
First order is to score the ham a good 1/2 inch deep. This humble act will allow further penetration of both spice and smoke. Say what ever you want, but this is a good thing, people! So we scored the ham in an semi-attractive checker board pattern, and then lavished it with liberal brush strokes of the honey baste. Whilst wet, we then gave it a good coating of the ham rub too. And that’s that, folks. Take it at once out to the pit, and commence with what you do best!
This truly is where most pit junkies are at their finest. Or at least at their happiest. Whence the wood smoke begins to curl, there is a special, contented sort of mojo that which transpires across a pit keeper’s soul. Something about the curling plumes, and the aroma of meat on the low and slow, that sets a fellow at ease. We can at once draw a manly beverage, and prop our feet by the fire, and for a while at least, require very little else in this life. Indeed, we are privileged this way, to revel in the simple order patron to the pit. So I moseyed inside, and lit the fireplace there. Turned the man chair towards the heat, whilst maintaining a good line of sight out to the pit, which puffed serenely just past the frosty patio door. And as I leaned back, feeling the first waves of a nap slosh the shores of consciousness, I couldn’t help but to think of those mass herds of shopping folk, elbowing their way in and out of lines, chasing the ultimate bargain. Filling mini vans. Thinning wallets. Bringing home bountiful piles of stuff, for to add to their already mountainous piles of other stuff. Mercy. I nudged my feet a little closer to the fireplace, pulled a blanket over me, and did the only sensible thing I could divine at the time…
When I awoke, the ham was pretty far along. I gave it another baste, and dusted it over with another smattering of rub. The goal is to take its internal temperature up to 145 F. Higher than that tends to dry a ham out. Since most hams are already cooked, how hot you wish to make it is left to your discretion, of course. But 145 F seems to be a happy temp for most folks. This ham needed more time, a duty of which was my pleasure to ensure. And so I put the lid back on, and sidled through the door, returning from whence I came to my man chair still warm, for a few minutes more under a soft blanket, beside the crackling fire. Rigorous work indeed, this pit keeping. It is not for wimps, nor the faint of heart. You gotta work up to it, people! Thus, I nuzzled back into my nest, feet propped up just right, whilst the chickadees zipped past the window pane.
I repeated this process hourly, two more times in point of fact, before the ham was hot all the way through. A routine you should know, that you may become quite accustomed to. A most beautiful, intoxicating rhythm indeed, when Black Friday rolls around, or any day really, when you feel the re-occurring need to lay low. Amen.
Sweet and Smokey: Cherry-Smoked Honey Ham, fresh off the pit, sided with a heaping spoonful of homemade scallop potatoes, and a vegetable medley for to please the lady folks. Yum! You can do more popular things on Black Friday, I suppose, but why!!
It was a good day as days go. Plumes of cherry wood smoke in a cold November breeze. Black Capped Chickadees flirting to and fro, snatching seeds from the feeder. A pond frozen over, hard now, and awaiting its impending snowfall. A gentleman of leisurely BBQ, I crossed my legs and shifted slightly in my chair, and watched the day unwind, patron to the pit. A day where many folk I know, and few hundred million I don’t, dare the frothy seas of consumerism, shoulder-to-shoulder, seeking out what ever it is they could live without any other day but this. I don’t get it people. I don’t get it because there is no question the proper thing to do on Black Friday, iffin that is you have it off. And that is to smoke a ham of course! So pull up a seat and a hot brew, and we’ll tell you a little more about the process, and how it went, this heady business of smoking a ham.
Our Black Friday Ham started innocently enough, with a humble spiral cut procured from the refrigerated aisles of a local grocer. A tip of the hat to the deli lady there, and a sampling of her chip dip, I made haste for the door, ham tucked under my wing like an NFL full back. I was off in a cloud of camel dust, you might say. Or would be I suppose, iffin I lived in the desert. And come to think of it, drove a camel there. Anyways, when I got home, the ham was lovingly rubbed down with brown sugar on each flap of meat, then hit with a little Suckle Busters Competition Rub, for an additional depth of seasoning to the flavor profile. And I took my sweet pit boy time with it, too, doing it right, making sure not a slice of precious ham went unloved.
The pit was preheated to 250, and the cherry wood smoke had thinned out some by the time I placed the ham on the top grate. I basted it down with a little apple juice, and gently placed on the huge, enameled lid of the Weber Smokey Mountain. Cherry wood smoke soon was aloft, and for the next three hours, and maybe even longer than that, the world gently twirled. The aromas of sizzling ham and cherry wood, oh what a fine and pleasant respite it was from the retail gods and the consumeristic melee thrashing about the city. And there was great novelty too, in not being a part of it.
Now you might be asking, why smoke a ham if hams come already smoked? Well, trust us when we say, by double-smoking your run-of-the-mill ham, you will aptly up the flavor of the beast by ten-fold. And nary will you encounter a finer prize. The meat can take it. Nay, it wants it. It craves smoke like a woman desires more shoes. I don’t get it either. We like to use fruit woods on ham, but hickory, or pecan, or others are just as well. And we basted the ham in its own juices from time to time too, giving it some love, and some attention. An hour before it was done, we brushed on the maple and brown sugar glaze, which ushered it by the arm to the next level of optimum hamhood.
Maple and Brown Sugar Glaze
- 1/2 Cup Maple Syrup
- 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Apple Juice
- 1 TBSP Mustard
When glazing the ham, open all the vents on your pit, maximizing air flow there so to get it good and hot. This will help in the caramelization of the sugars. We will turn an eye if you need to do this part of the process in your oven. No one needs to know. Whence the ham looks right, and smells right, and samples correctly as per your pit master privilege, plate up the succulence at once, and offer it unto your loved ones. And then tarry in the wake of deeds well done, smiling faces, and the aromas of a perfectly execute ham.
Like I said, it was a good day, as days go. Amen.
Cherry Smoked Spiral Cut Ham with a delightful Maple and Brown Sugar Glaze. You can do other things on black Friday I suppose, but why…
Nothing is quite so fine as firing up your pit on Easter morning. The smell of hickory wafting in the early sunbeams, the finches flirting in the fragrant spruce, and the world today, as most days go, seems to be rotating a little slower. There is leisure in the air, aloft with the wood smoke, and every fiber of your BBQ being knows it. The token urban madness is displaced it seems, with quieter streets, strolling neighbors, and driveways of parked cars, patron to house holds filled with warm banter and good food. And I like that. We had family coming over too, because once upon a time, I had leaked word that one could aptly pump up the flavor of your run of the mill smoked ham by ten times, if you smoked it again. Well it wasn’t long before I was asked one year to do the Easter ham, and well, that’s how traditions start I guess. My privilege. And that is what we’re up to at the pit this day. Smokin’ that good Easter ham. So get yourself a bib tied on, and lets commence with the task at hand. But be warned, once you do it on the smoker, you may never want to put your ham in the oven again. Man it’s good!
Now the first order of business, that is after of course pouring yourself a lovely beverage, is to rub your ham down in mustard. No, it’s not a flavor thing really, but as many smoke masters know, it is an adhering agent. In point of fact, I never heard of any one who can even taste the mustard whence the cook is complete. Think of it maybe as a primer for your rub. Lots of folks rub down all matter of cuts of meat in mustard before applying the rub. It’s just a great way for getting your rub to stick. Anyways, our rub today is as simple as it gets – brown sugar. That’s it. You can use what ever you like of course, but we went with good smearing of brown sugar. Then decorated it with pineapple slices, not just for cosmetic value, but also for the self-basting effect of smoking pineapples. It’s important here to let the ham and the sugar get to know one another for a while. To mingle. Wait until the sugar has liquefied, and becomes tacky to the touch before it goes on the smoker, for improved reception to the smokey goodness imparted upon it.
Hams are delightfully easy to double smoke because most hams that you’re used to are already cooked. Which nicely removes the pressure of wondering if its done or not. However, you want it hot, so the target internal temp to shoot for is 140 degrees, which is a good eating temperature for most tongues, save for the most hardened coffee drinkers. So I put the maverick probe in, just to keep tabs. With your smoker set at 250 degrees, most hams will take about 3 hours. Otherwise just keep an eye on that internal temperature. The smoke wood today is hickory, since the ham was originally hickory smoked to start with. It’s good to match it up if you can, however, I also tossed in a couple chunks of apple wood too, because that’s just how I roll.
Around 130 internal, you’ll want to start brushing on your glaze. The glaze we used was almost as simple as the rub.
Maple Ham Glaze
Mix together in your sauce pan the following:
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
Then proceed to varnish your ham with liberal abandoned. When it reaches 140 internal, go ahead and bring it inside and foil it. Let it rest as you do, as the juices find their way back through the smoke-scented meat. Note the aromas in the air, how they fill the house, and how your people at once beckon closer to thee, for to sample a bite perhaps, before the dinner bell tolls. Snag the choicest bits for the pit master of course.
Hickory Apple Double Smoked Ham, with a Maple Brown Sugar Glaze. Man! With a special thanks to our Savior, for He’s the reason we even get to smoke a ham today in the first place. Amen.
*Stomachs, time, and the rest of the food out-paced our Easter ham, and I had to reluctantly pull it from the smoker too soon, and accelerate it in the oven. And tho it didn’t come out the most attractive thing after that, rest assured, it was still as moist and savory as it was smokey, complimented with that wonderful, sweet glaze. And bellies were filled.