This easy and old-fashioned way to bake a ham is perfect for the Easter table. It’s just what a family get-together needs to anchor the meal. You bake the ham and let them bring the sides! What’s nice about our pear relish is that it is the only topper you need for ham baking. It’s similar to a chowchow pickle but with pear added. So you have the sweet softness of the pears and the tangy, vinegary taste of the relish that works so well with ham. Serve sliced with hot buttered biscuits or rolls.
Makes 16 servings
Prep: 10 to 15 minutes
Bake: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
6 to 8 pounds sugar-cured ham (either shank or butt portion)
1/2 cup Old Mill Pear Relish, and more for serving
1 cup water, as needed to bake ham
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Trim off the excess fat from the ham, leaving a 1/4-inch layer of fat all around. This will help keep the ham moist while it roasts. Slice nearly through the fat in a crisscross pattern.
Coat the top of the ham with the relish. Place the ham in a shallow roasting pan. Pour the 1 cup water into the pan and place in the oven.
Bake about 15 minutes per pound, or about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Check every 20 minutes, adding more water to the pan to keep the ham from burning. If the top gets too brown, tent the ham with foil.
Remove the ham from the oven, and let it rest 30 minutes before carving. Serve sliced with extra pear relish.
A favorite Old Mill recipe is for Tennessee Chess Pie, a simple southern classic made with just eggs, butter, and sugar, with the addition of cornmeal and vinegar. In parts of the South, and certainly here in the East Tennessee mountains, lemon juice was a scarcity in baking, so vinegar was substituted for flavor. And when thickening was needed in cooking and baking, cooks turned to what they had on hand – cornmeal. So chess pie is a little different than other custard pies, and we love to bake it with our freshly stone-ground yellow cornmeal.
2. Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl and beat until creamy. Add the eggs, vinegar, cornmeal, salt, and milk and stir to combine well. Pour the batter into the pie crust, and place in the oven.
Fresh lemons were a special-occasion ingredient in Smoky Mountain kitchens of old. In everyday cooking and baking, the flavor might be mimicked with apple cider vinegar or buttermilk. But during the Christmas holidays, lemon zest and juice were used in cookies, cakes, and pies. This simple butter cookie recipe – perfect for gift-giving – uses not only fresh lemon zest and juice, but also locally produced yellow self-rising cornmeal and chopped nuts. The nuts were black walnuts or hickory nuts in older mountain recipes, but today, most cooks bake with pecans. Corn was a crop more easily grown than wheat in mountain soil. So sometimes you find cookie recipes from the mountains contained a little cornmeal, adding texture and that little something extra!
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, separated
1 small lemon
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Place the flour and cornmeal in a small bowl, and stir to combine. Set aside.
3. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, and with an electric mixer beat on medium speed until the mixture is creamy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside the egg white. Place the egg yolk in the bowl with the butter and sugar, and beat on low until just combined, 30 seconds. Set aside.
4. Zest the lemon so you get about 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Add this to the butter and sugar mixture. Cut the lemon in half and juice it to yield 2 teaspoons. Add the lemon juice to the butter and sugar mixture. Add the flour and cornmeal mixture to the butter and sugar mixture, and beat on low speed until just combined and the mixture comes together into a ball, 1 minute.
5. Place the pecans in a shallow bowl. Pinch off 1-inch pieces of dough, roll into balls with your hands, dip into the egg white, and dredge in pecans to loosely coat. Place the balls of dough on a baking sheet, spaced about 2 inches apart. With a fork press down twice on each ball to flatten it. Repeat with the remaining dough. You will need to bake one pan at a time.
6. Place the pan in the oven, and bake until the cookies are deeply golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove with a spatula to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough.
How to make icebox cookies: Roll the dough into a 1 1/2-inch wide log and wrap in waxed or parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator to chill 1 hour. Brush the log with the reserved egg white and dredge in pecans. Slice into 1/4-inch rounds, and bake until golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes. You can omit the egg white and pecans, if desired, for lemon cornmeal icebox cookies.
Rye makes a very nice flour, and it is surprising how well it works in recipes that call for whole wheat flour. Using it to update a classic recipe like this helps to expand the uses of rye flour. These cookies freeze well, so you can make them in advance and bring them out an hour before serving.
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup (6 oz) semisweet or bitter-sweet chocolate chunks or chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Place the rye flour, unbleached flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Place the butter and sugars in a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour mixture a little at a time, beating on low speed until all the flour has been added and the dough is smooth. Fold in the chocolate and pecans. Place the dough in the refrigerator at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Scoop dough on to un-greased baking pans using a 1-inch scoop. Place one pan at a time in the oven and bake until golden brown but still a little soft in the center, 9 to 11 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough. Let cookies cool on a rack until time to serve. These freeze well.