My Mother’s Ham Glaze

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I had wanted to write this blog post before Easter so you all could try this recipe on your Easter ham. But I hadn’t tested it yet, so it had to wait. It’s such a great story, though, that I just couldn’t wait until next Easter to share it.

When I was little, I remember my mother making an awesome ham with a sweet and tangy glaze. When she got older, she either forgot or got lazy or something. The last ham she made, I remember, she put pineapple rings and maraschino cherries on it, and I remember thinking, “What did you do with my mother?” And so, I found my own glaze recipe and started making that for all my family dinners to rave, rave reviews.

So imagine my surprise when I get an email from a blog reader and former [Rodale Institute] employee telling me she still makes my mother’s ham glaze, and loves it.  That she got the recipe directly from my mother decades ago! Of course I asked if I could get a copy of it, and very kindly, Anne sent it to me.  She has her own blog at, and since she is a former lawyer and a current horticultural extension agent, I highly recommend you check it out!

You see, I believe this is the ham glaze that plays a key role in one of my mother’s most famous stories. The story goes like this: My father calls her up and tells her that someone is coming over for lunch, and asks could she please make lunch for them. This in and of itself was not unusual. My father was always bringing people home to eat, sometimes without any notice at all. And so she made ham. Lo and behold, when the guest shows up for lunch, she finds out just who it is…James Beard!!!!  When my mother got angry at my father for not telling her in advance who it was, he said he didn’t want her to worry and go overboard trying to impress. She told the story about how awful my father was. My father told the story occasionally with laughter. Me…every time I heard it, I thought about that ham, and did he like it? Apparently, he did. And as they all said at one time or another, it’s hard to go wrong with ham.

So this Easter, I made this glaze for 23 family members, with my usual Berkshire ham from Heritage Foods USA. (Thank you, Patrick Martins!) By all accounts, including—most importantly—my own, it was amazing. You should have seen the look on my daughters’ faces when my husband proudly told us that he sent all the leftovers home with all the relatives. Fortunately, I had made a special container just filled with fatty glazed ham bits and the stuff closest to the bone. So there will be ham leftovers for dinner, after all!

My Mother’s Ham Glaze



1 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons flour

4 Tablespoons prepared mustard (I used stone-ground, but I think she used yellow)

Grated rind of 1 lemon




1. Mix all these ingredients to the consistency of paste. For a 16-pound ham to feed 23, I doubled the glaze recipe.

2. Score the ham with a knife and insert cloves (not part of the original recipe, but it’s what I recommend).

3. Put the ham in the oven WITHOUT the glaze for about 2 hours (1 hour if a smaller ham). I cook it at about 350 degrees.

4. THEN add the glaze and cook for another hour—you can lower the heat to 300 if you want.

5. Let it rest for a half hour before you carve it.

NOTE: Even though hams are precooked, the reason you cook them so long is so that the fat has a chance to melt to just the perfect crispiness! So don’t short-change the time.

It’s really hard to go wrong with ham.



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3 Responses to My Mother’s Ham Glaze

  1. Susan May 2, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    I was searching for a different ham glaze this year, and didn’t find anything that was earth shattering. I love recipes with stories, and will add this to my recipe collection for next year!

    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Shelbi May 2, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    This ham recipe was AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS!!!! So well done!!!

  3. Laura K. May 2, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    You really can’t go wrong with ham. I think we need to eat ham more often than on holidays.

    I did a similar glaze but included -gasp!- Dr. Pepper in it this year because I had to try it. I won’t share that recipe.

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