Roasted ham is a holiday crowd-pleaser.
Coated with a glaze of sticky dark-brown sugar and studded with whole cloves that perfume the pink meat, ham dresses up Christmas feasts or provides a delicious morsel for Yuletide parties.
We’re not talking in this case about old-school country ham, the salt-cured cousin to Italian prosciutto and Spanish jamon Iberico that is preserved by hanging for a period to air-dry.
For Christmas you want a wet-cured ham, soaked in a sweet and saline brine or injected with it. Often the meat is hot-smoked over hickory or other hardwood.
Hams, which are cut from the hind legs of domesticated hogs and wild boars, are generally sold whole or halved. Although most packaged hams are fully cooked, they achieve maximum flavor when finished by glazing, seasoning, and further slow-roasting. Save the bone to flavor a pot of greens for New Year’s Day.
You don’t have to settle for roasting any old ham for your special Christmastime centerpiece. Eat high on the hog and support local merchants with products from these Alabama shops, restaurants, and farms.
Conecuh Sausage (Evergreen)
The sausage-making pride of Alabama, Conecuh also sugar-cures and hickory-smokes hams. Bone-in ($108.99), they are sold ready to finish in the oven. The hams are not always in stock, so check at its online store, or at the gift shop. Conecuh ships its products; order next-day air or one-day ground by December 15 for it to arrive by Christmas.
Smith Farms (Cullman)
Ed Smith cured and smoked hams and bacon, which he started selling at a roadside farm stand in 1955. Since then, Smith Farms has grown into a full-fledged smokehouse and store that also stocks meats, cheeses, jams, other prepared foods, and gift boxes. Current owners Rodger and Lori Turner still follow Smith’s recipes for curing pork, including hickory-smoked ham ($88 for a whole ham). Shipping is available.
Apple Lane (Decatur & Madison)
Donnie Lane, who learned the art of curing and smoking from a ham man based in Detroit, opened Apple Lane in Decatur in late 1997. A second store is in Madison. Apple Lane hams are hardwood-cooked for at least 24 hours. Glazed and spiral-sliced whole hams are $60–$85, depending on their size. Place an order online for pickup.
Alabama Acres (Shelby County)
Alabama Acres is a family farm in Shelby County that raises chickens, geese, guinea fowl, tilapia, and pasture-raised pigs. They cure and smoke their hams, which are sold oven-ready. Text or call 205-994-0991 or email email@example.com for prices and availability.
Purely Pastured Farm (Foley)
The hogs grow fat on a combination of forage and feed on the Benford family’s farm in Foley, where they also raise chickens. The farm’s online store includes smoked ham. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to check on availability.
Select barbecue restaurants (multiple locations)
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in the Cahaba Heights community of Vestavia Hills smokes hams for the holidays. They can be purchased individually ($79.99 half, $129.99 whole), or as part of meal packages ($114.99–$219.99). Bulk quantities of sides also are available. Order online by December 16 at 3 p.m. Down the street a bit, Miss Myra’s Pit Bar-B-Q always will pit-cook a ham ($50) with at least three days’ notice.
Get in touch with your inner pioneer and cure your own ham from locally-raised hogs. BDA Farm near Uniontown sells uncooked hams ($109.99–$129.99 for 10- to 13-pound legs) to make at home. You also can guarantee you’ll have hind legs for ham and stock your freezer at the same time by buying a whole or half hog. Alabama Acre, Purely Pastured Farm, and BDA Farm all sell hog shares. When Goose Pond Farm near Hartselle posts that its late-fall harvest is ready, the pork sides reportedly sell out within hours. Marble Creek Farmstead near Sylacauga is the rare farm that also can cut its pastured meat to order at its on-site USDA-inspected facility.