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Glazes bring out the best in ham at Easter or any time

The traditional meat of choice for many Easter meals is city ham. In the early days, hogs were slaughtered in the fall, and because there was no refrigeration, the fresh pork that wasn't consumed during the winter was cured for spring.

The curing process took a long time, and the hams were ready when Easter rolled around.

Ham also is a bargain, especially around Easter. A 10-pound bone-in shank ham can easily feed 20 people.

To jazz up a city ham, many cooks glaze the meat to enhance its flavor. Glaze ingredients include everything from mustard and brown sugar to bourbon and Coke.

Jeremy Ashby, chef at Azur Restaurant & Patio in Beaumont Centre, uses a combination of his favorite spices to flavor a ham.

Clove, cinnamon and nutmeg are "ever-present in our cooking. We often toy with renditions of worldly ethnic dishes in which these spices are foundational," he said.

Ashby created a glaze that uses the three spices, then he adds other flavors, perhaps peppercorns, ginger, citrus, bourbon and soy sauce, to make a bold glaze.

Some cooks prefer simply to brush the ham with molasses, chutneys, fruit spreads, cider or pepper jelly. The sugars in the glaze caramelize while baking to give the ham a glossy sheen.

Bruce Aidells, author of The Complete Meat Cookbook and Bruce Aidells's Complete Book of Pork, says that when cooking a fresh ham, one that has not been cured or smoked, you will want to add the glaze toward the end of the long cooking time so it doesn't burn. To provide more surface area for the glaze to stick to the ham, many cooks score it in a diamond pattern by cutting ¼- to ½ -inch slashes into the surface.