Jamaican Christmas Ham
Baked ham at Christmas is a popular tradition in many countries of the world. I know in the states for example the popular ham is “The Honey Baked Ham”, although there may be other glazes used by different people as well. Ham is a popular meat dish to have on certain holiday dinners for those who eat it such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter.
In the Caribbean Islands, including Jamaica, we make our traditional ham a little different than most parts of the world. The standard glazes made and used may be similar, but the most common ingredients you will notice is the pineapples and cherries along with the cloves that will be used on most of our hams. I am calling my recipe “Jamaican Christmas Ham” because this is “a must” in almost every home at Christmas. I personally bake at least 2 hams in my home each Christmas as my family ends up eating it from the moment it’s baked for most meals.
Most Jamaicans I know may traditionally use a mixture of pineapple juice and brown sugar as a base for their glaze. I believe mine is a little different as I do use those 2 ingredients along with Jamaican strawberry syrup which gives it a nice unique flavor. Making a baked ham may also seem like a lot of work but it is really easy to do as you will notice in the steps below.
Ingredients for Jamaican Christmas Ham
- Ham – May be a bone-in or boneless. It may also be fully cooked or uncooked (which would require more careful adjustments of cooking time). There are also different cuts of ham such as the shoulder, the butt, shank, leg or centre cuts. I prefer the shoulder or leg for baking.
- Pineapples – To dress the ham
- Pineapple Juice – To give the glaze a citrus flavor.
- Cherries – To dress the ham with the pineapples.
- Strawberry Syrup – To make glaze with a little different taste
- Brown Sugar – To make the glaze and add sweetness.
- Cloves – To dress the ham and be placed in each diagonal cut. It also adds that christmassy flavor when cooked. (even though they are not to be eaten).
- Toothpicks – To hold the cherries and pineapples in place.
- Cornstarch – To thicken your glaze so it will stick to your ham better.
Preparation Steps of Jamaican Christmas Ham
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- The ham will come in a plastic packaging which you will cut to remove. Then it will also be covered in a mesh looking cloth called a cheesecloth which you will also cut away and remove.
- Pre-heat your oven on 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Follow the cooking directions on your ham. For most pre-cooked hams you usually cook it for a total of 15 minutes per pound. (So if your weight is in Kg., you first have to convert it to lbs.)
- Place your ham fat side up on your baking tray uncovered (or you may place foil around the sides if you would like). I bake my ham for the first hour like this.
- While your ham is baking, prepare your glaze by adding pineapple juice, brown sugar, and strawberry syrup in a small pot. Place on medium heat and bring to a slight boil.
- Dilute cornstarch with a little water and add to glaze when boiling, stir for about a minute until thickens. Add more cornstarch as needed.
- Remove ham from oven and using a large sharp knife, the skin with the fat is easily cut and removed from one corner to the other. Still leave about 1/4″ of fat in place.
- Score your ham all across the top with criss cross diagonal lines using your knife and you will be left with diamond shapes.
- Place a clove in as many corners of the diamonds as possible.
- Brush or spoon your glaze all over the ham also trying to get some in the grooves.
- Take a toothpick and stick it into a cherry, using another toothpick, position your pineapple in place starting on one low end of the ham, continue covering the ham with your pineapples and cherries as much as you have. If there is remaining glaze, brush it over the tops.
- Place dressed ham back in the oven for the remaining cooking time or like an hour.
- Remove from oven. cool at least half an hour to an hour before slicing. (some people also only slice the amount needed for each serving.
Jamaican Christmas Ham
- 6 lb. Ham
- 1/2 cup Pineapple Juice
- 1/2 cup Strawberry Syrup
- 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
- 2 Tbsp. Cornstarch diluted in 1/4 cup water
- 12-16 Cloves
- 20 oz. can Pineapples
- 10-12 Maraschino Cherries
- 12-15 Toothpicks
For a solid frozen ham, thaw out in the sink overnight.
Heat oven to 325 degrees F.
Remove ham from packaging and cheesecloth. Place fat side up in a baking pan. Cover sides with foil if desired.
Place in oven and bake for 1 hour.
Make glaze by combining pineapple juice, syrup, and brown sugar in a small pot on medium heat while stirring.
Dilute cornstarch with water. When glaze slowly starts to boil, add cornstarch mixture and keep stirring until thickens. Remove from heat.
After 1 hour, remove ham from oven. Using a large sharp knife, start at the corner and cut skin and most of fat off, leaving about 1/4" of fat.
Score ham in 2 different directions using diagonal cuts to be left with diamond shapes. Place as many cloves as possible in each criss cross.
Brush or spoon gaze liberally to cover the ham all around.
Using toothpicks, start placing cherries and pineapples on the ham starting on one corner and covering as much as possible. Brush on any excess glaze.
Place ham back in oven to bake an additional hour or according to your directions.
** Cool half an hour to 1 hour before slicing.