This past Christmas, my wonderful Aunt Diane treated us to a Honeybaked Ham. Oh my goodness . . . the excitement, the glory . . . the absolute RAPTURE when we opened that classic red and gold foil and caught a glimpse of the gorgeous beauty inside. We savored every bit of that ham– from eating it, plain, to chopping it up for twice baked potatoes, potato soup, and cute little ham croissant sandwiches. Then, you can boil the bone with green beans to get every little scrap of meat off, while your beans shine like they’re dancing the night away in a borrowed prom dress. 😉 My, we had a beautiful romance . . . that ham, and me. And then, tragically, it was over. The ham, alas, was gone. We entered a period of deep mourning. I thought about that ham for weeks, afterward. I tried to move on . . . but the love borne so long ago refused to give up. I was smitten for life. I knew it had been an Affair to Remember.
Tragically, at a price tag of around $100, a Honeybaked Ham just isn’t in my budget. It is a rare treat for a special occasion, for my family. But after last year, I knew this had to change. I found a huge spiral cut ham on clearance for $9, after Christmas, and I knew it was time. I had to go into the “lab” of my kitchen and figure this sucker out. I read a lot of supposedly “secret” recipes, but even just reading through the ingredients, I knew they would be delicious, but I just didn’t think they would turn out the way I loved classic Honeybaked ham to be– sweet with just a hint of citrus and clove, with a crunchy, sugary crust. I tweaked and tried multiple glaze ingredients, and I am going to show you exactly how each “glaze” turned out, and the one that I eventually came up with that passed the test. My final version seriously tastes exactly like the real Honeybaked ham– and as a taste test, I took some “real” Honeybaked ham, and secretly put some of my “Rebel” Ham in there, and no one even knew the difference. Seriously. How would YOU like to serve a Rebel Honeybaked ham at your next gathering, for under $10? How about making these hams for everyone, as a Christmas gift? Man . . . wouldn’t you love to get a Honeybaked ham, for Christmas? Your house will smell incredible, and everyone will toast your good health with the Christmas punch. Now you can have Honeybaked ham for Sunday dinner, no special occasion required. Or just make a gorgeous, perfect ham for Easter, and let everyone rave about it. Let them in on the secret, or don’t. It’s up to you . . . you REBEL, you!
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Copycat Honeybaked Ham
(Rebel Version! 🙂 (My original recipe– feel free to share it and use it, but please link back here so no one steals my work 🙂
1 spiral cut ham (mine was 12 pounds, but you can make any size ham you want– just adjust glaze accordingly)
2 cups pear juice (find this in the baby food aisle)
Juice from 1 orange
1 cup Turbinado sugar (also called “Sugar in the Raw”)
2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. clove
A few drops of water
Place ham, spiral side down, in pear and orange juices. Cover pan tightly with foil and roast until ham is done, according to package directions. Combine turbinado sugar, cinnamon, and clove together, in a bowl. Add a few drops of water and stir– you want to add just enough that the sugar and spices clump, but not enough that they are wet. Carefully remove ham from juice and place on an oven-safe cookie sheet. Pack sugar mixture onto the top of the ham and place under the broiler just until topping is melted. Finish sides with Brulee torch and serve.
It’s crazy how easy this recipe is. Seriously. I just can’t wait for you to take the first bite and break free from expensive Honeybaked tyranny! To start with, grab yourself a spiral cut ham. It really doesn’t matter what kind or flavor, because we won’t be using the flavor packet that comes with the ham. This 12 pound beauty was on clearance at Walmart for $9 after Christmas, and I snatched it. Always grab hams on sale after the holidays– they freeze beautifully, and then you have an impressive dinner entrée anytime you like, for a fraction of the price. Score.
Next, let’s get our base liquid going. You need about 2 cups of pear juice (you can find this in the baby food aisle, with the baby juices). I used half of this container (give or take a few oz. on the 2 cups thing– we won’t split hairs), and then I froze the rest, for next time. Don’t forget to label your juice. When you’re squinting in the light of the refrigerator, trying to decide if that is pear juice, lemon juice, or leftover chicken broth, you’ll thank me. Pour your 2 cups(ish) pear juice and the juice from 1 orange into your pan (I used a 13×9 inch baking dish). Place your ham into the juice, spiral-side down. Spiral hams have a tendency to dry out, so cooking them submerged in sweet juice is totally the way to go– that way they stay moist and tender, as well as deliciously sweet. YUM. I can almost taste it, now!
Cover your pan and ham tightly with foil so that the steam and juices stay inside the pan until you’re ready. Bake your ham according to package directions (the label usually peels off to tell you how many minutes per pound to bake the ham). When the ham finishes baking, that’s when things get fun. Please enter . . . ye olde kitchen lab! Does that make me the mad scientist? (Smoothes crazy hair awkwardly and tries to look intelligent).
From all my research, I found that the supposedly “secret recipe” glazes were basically broken down into 3 camps: white sugar, brown sugar, and honey based sauces. Now, honestly, any of these bases will make a fantastic ham. But will it be a HONEYBAKED ham? More important, will it be a REBEL honeybaked ham? So, just because I love you so much, I decided to try them all. How is this possible???? You said you had one ham! I don’t have the money to buy multiple hams or the freezer space or the . . . (sounds of hyperventilating).
Naw. Don’t worry. I’m making this nice and simple. I just took a few spare pieces of ham and made a teensy bit of glaze for each combo. I then blobbed (is “Blobbed” a word? It should be) a teeny bit of my teeny glaze recipes onto the ham and torched them with a Kitchen Torch (um, FUN). I’ll show you the results, in a minute. This way, I could taste and see how the glazes would turn out, without subjecting my entire ham to the test. Once I picked the glaze I liked best, it was easy peasy from there to do the entire ham.
The ham on the right is testing some of the “secret” recipes I found online. The top right is a mixture of white and brown sugar, cinnamon/clove, and a little bit of juice from the cooked ham to hold it together. Bottom right is a mixture of brown sugar, honey, and cinnamon/clove, and the one on the left is my own personal creation and hunch– inspired by my Copycat Panera Cinnamon Crunch Bagels. You can see exactly what I put into it, in the recipe, above (turbinado sugar, cinnamon, clove, and a few drops of water). I smeared a little bit of the different glazes onto the ham pieces and then . . .
FIREPOWER, BABY!!! If this is a rebel ham, it’s only fitting that we should have firepower. Bwahaha. Sorry. O_O Serious. There are many kinds of kitchen torches, out there. When I first started making Crème Brûlée and other cool “fire away!” type recipes, I got one of those paltry little “Brûlée torches” from Bed Bath and Beyond. Oh goodness. That thing was nothing more than a glorified lighter. It took FOREVER to torch my Brûlée. I could have raised a cow from a calf, milked it, made my own cream, and created the dish in less time than it took to flame that sucker with the teensy weensy torch. Bleck. I needed more fuel! More equipment! More POWER!!!!! (Grand music swells in background).
Enter the Iwatani Butane torch. Man– this thing makes the weensy Brûlée torch I first used look like . . . well, like a glorified lighter, which is exactly what it was. To start with, you don’t have to break your thumb holding a little red button, while you use this one. You can control air flow and flame heat and intensity, as well as size, where the other “torch” has just one speed: “On.” You do have to be careful with a professional torch, though, because the flame can be as large as, like . . . a welding torch, if you’re not careful. So read all the directions and be careful. (Seriously, though– it’s so much fun. You need one of these, like, yesterday. Get one here— and my advice is pick up the fuel from an Asian supermarket, because it’s much cheaper.).
I took my sweet flame-thrower and torched up these babies. POOOOFFFFF. And then they were done. Ahh. The smell of roasting ham and sweet, sticky glaze was intoxicating– my family members started drifting randomly out to the kitchen to see what smelled so good. All the glazes smelled amazing, and they all toasted up a little differently. The top right one (brown and white sugar) formed kind of a crystalized crust, but there was some seepage of fluid. The bottom right (honey and brown sugar) made a sticky, gooey layer that oozed everywhere. The left (turbinado sugar and spices) was a perfectly crystalized crust with no leaking.
But as beautiful as they all were, there were a couple problems with the ones on the right. If you’ve ever tried a real Honeybaked ham, you know that the sugary top layer almost “flakes” off, into your hands, if you pull on it. I used a fork to pull up the white/brown sugar layer to show you. There is a little crystallization, there, which is good, but there was still a leak of fluid. And if you’ve ever cooked with brown sugar, you know that hot dripping liquid=burned sugar, which is BAD. I don’t think I’d use this glaze for a whole ham, as it would no doubt end up burned. Brown sugar is a tough one to use for any glaze, because it burns so easily. It was very tasty, though not quite Honeybaked ham, so I think if the brown/white sugar were applied and then carefully torched, it could work. But the risks outweigh the benefits, for me, on this method. Strike 1.
I don’t have a picture of the fork pulling up the honey/brown sugar layer, because that glaze was completely liquid, and there was no caramelized crust to pull off. The glaze was very tasty, but, once again, not Honeybaked ham. I also feel that you would run into the same problem of burning sugar if you tried this glaze on a whole ham. And burned sugar really takes the fun out of a fabulous Easter dinner :/ That one was also so liquidy that I think you’d have a hard time keeping it on the ham, in the first place. It was slippery as a politician . . . and we all know you can’t trust ’em. My personal opinion is leave the honey one go. Strike 2.
Ahhh . . . take a deep breath, folks. We are about to enter the sacred presence of the winner. It’s hard to see in this picture, but the turbinado/spices glaze was so incredibly beautiful. It was caramelized and had melted into a glistening, delicate layer of crispness that lifted off light as a feather, exactly as the real Honeybaked ham does. It also adhered most easily to the meat, without any leaking. This means that it will be much easier to put over an entire ham, and, like the dependable little guy that it is, it will stay put and get the job done. This glaze DELIVERS. There is also no brown sugar in there to burn. Oh man . . . it was just great. I carefully cut into this bite of ham and tried it. ZONK. Time stopped. I took another bite. And then it was gone, in all its perfection . . . carrying with it the memories of frosty Christmas evenings, decorating the tree with family, and that amazing Christmas ham from my Aunt. And I knew. This was it. This was the one.
Once I had my glaze down, it was time to figure out how Honeybaked gets the glaze all over the ham to be caramelized. I figured that they had to use a fairly simple and quick method for getting the hams glazed, since they process so many at a time. So here’s what I did. I carefully lifted the cooked ham from its juicy cocoon, and I moved it to a silpat-lined baking sheet. Be careful, because the ham is hot– you may have to have someone help you lift it over there, so you have it supported on all 4 sides as you lift. The layers were all beautiful and moist and delicious from being roasted down in the juice.
Next, I mixed up my Master glaze. Put your cup of turbinado sugar and your cinnamon and clove into a bowl. When you stir it up, the spices will kind of sift down through the sugar, and you will think, “Now how in the world am I supposed to get the spices to stick together with that sugar! It seems like an impossible marriage!” Enter marriage counselor: water. Just a few drops of water will bring everything together, perfectly. Stir and mix with your spoon until your mixture looks kind of like moist sand– just wet enough to hold together, but not moist enough to have any extra liquid or goopiness. Stir well to make sure the spices are combined.
This next part is really fun. If you’ve ever wanted to look like a boss and use a kitchen torch, here is your chance. Your ham shouldn’t be too hot– just nice and toasty warm– so you can do this without getting burned. Take nice handfuls of the sugar mixture and slap it on there. Yep. Really pack it on, almost like you’re building a sandcastle. The moist sugar will stick like a charm. Pack it on there. The sugar will also kind of hold the layers together, which is great because then you get all the ham’s moisture saved for your well-deserving tummy.
Figuring that not everyone will have a kitchen torch (but you REALLY should. I mean, bringing fire to the table is the coolest thing ever), I tried this ham under the broiler for a few minutes. Honestly, that did the trick pretty well. The sugar melted nicely at the top (see that melted part on the left of the ham?), but the problem with the broiler was that the super tall parts of the ham were getting done too quickly, so I had to put a little foil on those pieces to keep them from burning. Eh . . . it was a little bit of a hassle, but not a deal-breaker, for me. If you are using the broiler, it takes about 5 minutes, and you need to keep a close eye on it and pull the ham out if anything starts to get too brown. You just want the sugar to kind of melt together so that you see a slick surface, instead of the individual sugar crystals. I then pulled my ham out and finished the sides and a few spots with my kitchen torch. And oh my goodness . . . did that smell GOOD!
This is a close up of the glaze. Yes, I know it looks more like one of those “Can you guess what this is?” pictures of a close up of some random object. But just look closely. See how all the individual grains have melted together into a solid sheet of shiny loveliness (and check out that alliteration!)? Yes. That’s what you want. The shine will tone down a bit, as the ham cools, but this look means it is melted enough (whether you’re using the broiler or a Brûlée torch). It shouldn’t be burned, at all– just nice and melted together and slightly caramelized.
Serve up your succulent ham on a beautiful platter with bright green vegetables, like asparagus or fresh green peas. I just love to come back from church on Easter Sunday and set up a bountiful table loaded down with gorgeous pastel colors and fresh spring vegetables. And this year, I will also be adding my very own “Rebel Honeybaked Ham.” 😉 And I bet, if you don’t tell your fam, they won’t ever guess that you made this, yourself. Does being a Mom come with a Superwoman cape? It should.
Because you did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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