December 28, 2010

Christmas Ham / Roast


IMG_8213 I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas. I love the gluttony of it all, the excuse to indulge in fatty, sugary, chocolate-y things without the guilt is right up my alley. The marzipan stollen, sugarplums, Mexican wedding cakes, gingerbread cookies, turkey, ham, stuffing!!! This is definitely a season for fattening up, so that in the New Year, we feel somewhat regretful that we indulged so much in the past few weeks, and every year. Without fail. I make a resolution that involves the words “diet”, “goal weight” and “healthy”. Oh, why don’t I ever learn?

Well this year, like any other, has been filled with a little bit of stress, a little bit of holiday cheer, and a little bit (or a lot) of eating. If I do a tally, I’ve had 2 turkey dinners and 2 ham dinners and each time as scrumptious as the other. The first ever German style Christmas Market was debuted in Vancouver, and I think it was very  successful! Definitely nothing like the real thing, but it was fun, they had great Gluehwein (mulled wine) and awesome bratwursts!

Oh I love the holidays. I think my favourite thing about Christmas (other than spending time with family, opening presents and all that shenanigans) is Ham. Never do you really get a chance to make a gigantic ham and get away with it. Summer? Too hot. Fall? Well we just had Turkey at Thanksgiving… Spring? People are well under way with their new resolutions to even think about eating something as fatty as ham! So Christmas. It’s the one opportunity to have it.









So, this (like most other things on my blog so it seems) is another first timer. I’ve never made ham before, I’ve always just been there to eat it!  I realize now that I screwed up… in that, I had ordered a pork roast, and not a bone in ham. Which is a HUGE difference, but not really …at the same time. They’re both pork therefore the same species, and usually a roast is from the same part (butt/leg) as a ham, but ham… has already been smoked and it has the bone in it already, which  makes the meat so incredibly scrumptious and juicy with all the marinating glaze caramelizing on the surface.  The roast, same thing pretty much, but you don’t get the smoky flavour and the consistency of the meat isn’t like a ham (which is more dense) but is like… a pork chop. Does this make sense? Well, I hope so.

So this is a simplified Martha Stewart recipe, where I follow the same general ingredients, but I don’t follow the method to the T. You might call this half-assing but I call it efficiency. This is the way my M&M family (2nd family) make it every year, and they had started talk about just having turkey instead of ham, so I decided to make it at home for our family dinner… but as it turns out. They made a turkey AND a ham this year! BAM!

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The Christmas Dinner Spread…. MMmmmmmmm….. Vegetarian Stuffing, mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, Brussels sprouts, turkey gravy, layered salad, cranberry sauce, Turkey, Ham AND a sausage and giblet stuffing… It doesn’t get any better than this!

For those of you that cringe at the thought of meat… or pork or whatever: a) You can do the same glazing technique to anything! Such as, root vegetables, Tofu chunks, Seitan, Tempeh, etc. b) For people that don’t eat pork, use it on chicken, or duck, or quail or what have you! Experiment. (Duck would be soooo good!)



  • 1 whole smoked ham, 10-14 pounds (as big or as little as you like), bone in and rind on.
  • OR: in my case, I used a roast that was around 10 pounds
  • OR: Use Tofu, Seitan, Tempeh, Root Vegetables, Chicken, Duck, Beef?
  • 1 cup + 1/2 cup Apple Cider
  • 2 Tbsp Whole Cardamom Pods
  • 1 Tbsp Whole Fennel Seeds
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Ground Ginger
  • 3/4 cup Dijon Mustard
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Light Corn Syrup
  • 2 Tbsp Unsulfured Blackstrap Molasses
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp Whole Cloves

1. Leave out the Ham, or Roast out at room temperature for an hour or so until the meat has the chill taken off of it. Line a baking dish or a casserole dish with heavy aluminum foil to make it easier to clean the dish afterward. The glaze can cook and sometimes burn onto the ceramic/glass. Wash and pat the meat dry with a clean paper towel and pour a cup of apple cider over top. Stick it in a preheated 325 degree F oven. You can score the rind to have it more easily removable later, but not totally necessary. Mine came from the butcher already scored! yay!

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2. In the mean time, toast the Cardamom, and Fennel until fragrant in a hot skillet (a few minutes). Remove from heat and bash it up with either a food processor or a mortar and pestle. Grind it up to a fine-ish powder.

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3. Pour it into a bowl and add the Ground Ginger and Ground Cinnamon. Add the brown sugar, molasses, mustard, apple cider and corn syrup. Whisk all together to ensure there are no lumps and this should have a fairly thick consistency. If you don’t want to add as much sugar, supplement with agave syrup or honey.

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4. After the roast/ ham’s been in the oven for about an hour and a half, the rind should be crisp and golden. This needs to be taken off, and either you eat it (it’s FULL of saturated animal fat! SO BAD for you, but soooo goood…) or you chuck it. Either carve it off with a sharp serrated knife, or it should come off easily with a pair of tongs.

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5. Score the fat underneath the rind (the fat needs to stay on to ensure a moist roast/ham) in a diamond pattern about 2 inches wide. Slather with the mixture and try to get it into the grooves. Insert Whole Cloves into the intersection of each diamond, or less if you prefer. I drizzled with a little agave, and stuck it back in the oven.

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6. After about 20 minutes, the roast/ham should have a wonderful glaze on it, Baste some more with the glaze. Stick it back in for another 25-30 minutes and the ham/roast should be done!

Note: The meat should never ever by basted with the pan juices because it will ruin the nice glaze you have going on. ONLY baste with the remaining spice/glaze mixture.

Let the whole thing rest for 30 minutes before carving. This ensures that the moisture doesn’t all spill out of the meat and it stays in to make it juicy. Once the fat and water molecules have calmed down after cooling a bit and resting, it will stay in the meat resulting in a beautifully flavoured, succulent reward!

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So there you have it. My Christmas. I can’t believe it’s over because the lead up to it was chaotic! But it’s soooo worth the effort in the end. OOoaf… my pants are now too tight!

December 22, 2010

A trio of Shortbread Cookies

I’ve always liked shortbread, what’s not to like? It’s buttery and melts in your mouth! Well I guess people might complain because it’s a little dry, but that’s why you have it with tea! Well anyway… I have never made this before (in this iteration because technically, I tried once before but failed miserably) and I tried it with a couple different ingredients. It’s not a new thing to have earl grey or matcha green tea in shortbread, because I’ve seen and tasted it before…but I guess I don’t want to pay the premium for having to buy it elsewhere (which I have no clue where to buy it).

In any case. Yes. It’s the holiday time, I’m baking for my friends and family, because I think showing your love for someone through making something from scratch for them… is on the one hand satisfying to have the sense of accomplishment and on the other, means you can “taste test” as many as you’d like without feeling it in your wallet. It’s a win win situation!

So a few important notes from my epic fail earlier:

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(what to avoid: it’s hard to tell, but that’s an earl grey shortbread cookie that… was a major disappointment)

  • If you’re making these gluten free. Make sure you use flours that are super absorbent such as cornstarch or sweet rice flour. I used Spelt, Tapioca and Sorghum which was a little bit of a disaster. (see photo above. No good)
  • Make sure you bake these at 300 degrees F. Too hot will brown the outside but leave the inside under baked.
  • Refrigerate the dough before you roll it out to use it. It will seem really tough at the start when you work with it out of the fridge, but after a little beating and a little kneading… it’ll cooperate with you.
  • The dough may seem dry, but add all the flour that I tell you to add. Mix and knead with your hand if you need to, but trust me. If the dough isn’t dry, it’ll spread like a pancake on you (again, see photo above)

What you want it to look like:




(Note: I doubled the recipe in the pictures, so follow the steps, but it’s half the amount)

  • 1 cup all purpose flour + 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • or: 1/2 cup Corn Starch, 1 + 1/2 cups Sweet Rice Flour for a gluten free alternative
  • 1/4 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 1 cup Butter (or shortening if you’re making it vegan), At Room Temperature
  • 1/2 cup Icing Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Optional: 3 Tbsp Matcha Green Tea, 1 Earl Grey Tea bag, 1 Tbsp Japanese Green Tea, Orange zest, Lemon zest, Poppy Seeds, Ground Hazelnuts, Ground walnuts, Chopped Cranberries, White Chocolate, Instant Coffee Powder, Chocolate Chips, Ground Cinnamon, anything!

1. Cut butter into cubes, then beat butter until smooth and creamy with an electric beater, then add sugar and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes until fluffy.

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2. Take excess butter mixture off the blades and then with a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and gently fold in the flour(s) until fully incorporated. When you get a handful of the dough, press it together in your hand and it should hold its shape.

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3. Divide up the dough in different bowls for different flavours. Add the flavouring whether it be Matcha Powdered Green Tea, Earl Grey Green Tea, Orange Zest, Nuts or anything for that matter. Mix the flavouring in with your hands to fully incorporate into the dough.

Earl Grey:

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Matcha Green Tea Powder + Japanese Toasted Rice Green Tea:

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Plain Shortbread:

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4. Wrap each in Plastic Wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or over night.

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5. Take the dough's out of the fridge when you want to use it. Preheat the oven to 300 Degrees F and clean off your work station. Lightly Flour the surface with a dusting.

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6. With a wooden rolling pin, take the dough (unwrapped) and beat it a few times to loosen it up. You may want to knead it a bit to make it more pliable. It will feel very hard from having it chilling in the fridge. Start rolling out the dough. The edges will probably try to crack. No worries, just work the edges with your hand or the rolling pin to patch it as you go. It might still be too cold. Keep warming it up with your hands (but not too much) until it’s workable.

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7. How thick? About 1/8 of an inch or however thick you want it. The thing with shortbread is that there is no leavener so it won’t rise. How ever thick you roll it out, it will stay that thickness.  Dip your cookie cuter in some flour, then punch out the shapes.

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8. Gather up and re-knead the dough together and re roll out over and over again until you use up the dough.

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9. Bake in a 300 degrees F oven for about 15-20 minutes or until starting to look golden brown around the edges.

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10. Repeat steps 6-9 for the rest of the dough's in different flavours.

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