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Ham it up: Sweet rub makes holiday dish the gift that keeps on giving

A sweet and spicy rub is key to this flavorful holiday ham. (Grand Forks Herald photo by Jessica Karley Rerick) 1 / 2
A sweet and spicy rub is key to this flavorful holiday ham. (Grand Forks Herald photo by Jessica Karley Rerick) 2 / 2

Ham is one of the most popular meats that will be served in the next week or two, so I'd like to share a few tips and a favorite rub recipe to make your holiday ham the best it can be.

Beware: When it's baking, the kitchen traffic jumps considerably, especially with husband, kids and dogs in the house. My favorite part of baking a ham though, is the fly-by conversation. With young boys, it's pretty amazing how much one can learn from a talk that all starts with "Yum! What's for dinner?"

Before we get to the rub recipe, here are a few holiday ham pointers:

• Know how much to buy. In my house the answer is always the biggest one you can get. Leftovers are great for sandwiches, soups and beans. If your eaters are not quite as aggressive as mine, here are a few ratios to help you out:

Approximate Pounds per Serving

Type of Ham

Pounds per Dinner Serving

Bone-in Ham

3/4 lbs. to 1lb per serving

Partially Boned Ham

1/2 lbs. per serving

Boneless Ham

1/3 lbs. per serving

2. Don't cook it too long. If you are buying a precooked ham at your local grocery store, all you really need to do is reheat the ham. Low and slow is the way to go. Precooked ham should be baked at 325 degrees or less. I baked my 15-pound, bone-in half ham at 275 degrees for 1.5 hours and then at 450 degrees for an additional 30 minutes after putting on the rub. This allows the sugar in the rub to caramelize on the outside. Note: Before you throw it in the oven, you also should allow the thawed ham to sit at room temperature for an hour to help ensure it will heat evenly.

3. Resist the urge to baste. You may be tempted to pour some of the pan juices over the top of your ham while it bakes, but don't do it. Because ham already is salty, basting will just add more salt. Instead, put about 2 cups of water in the bottom of your pan and tent the ham in foil while it reheats. This will create a nice, steamy environment for your ham to warm.

4. Do not put your rub or glaze on the ham until the last hour of cooking. If you apply the rub earlier, it may blacken before your ham is done.

5. Do not throw out the bone. Keep it for added flavoring in your next crockpot of soup or favorite bean dish.

Sweet and Spicy Ham Rub

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ cup applesauce

¼ cup mustard, dijon (plain yellow will work, results will not be as spicy)

1 15-pound bone-in ham

Directions: Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Place ham in roasting pan and add 2 cups of water to the bottom of the pan, or just enough to cover the bottom and come up ⅛ inch on the ham. Using a sharp knife, score the ham in a diamond pattern. Cover the ham with foil and bake for 1.5 hours.

Remove the pan from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Remove the foil. In a small bowl, combine the applesauce and mustard. Stir until combined and rub over the ham. In another small bowl, combine the sugar and spices. Stir until evenly combined and pat the sugar and spice mixture into the applesauce on the outside of the ham. Place the pan into the oven and bake the ham uncovered for an additional 30 to 45 minutes or until the coating forms a dark brown crust.

Remove the pan from the oven and cover the ham in foil. Let the ham rest 15 minutes before carving.