We'd piled into my mother's Dodge over an hour before the suburban landscape and the snarled with traffic highway gracefully became a rolling road through the country. And just as gracefully, Maryland blended into Pennsylvania as we progressed due northwest.
That's when it would hit me, that anticipation in my gut: back to the farm—for Christmas. Back to that place where I'd spent summers beside Poppy, my Grandfather, shucking corn and popping peas out of their pods beneath a giant sun. Back to that place where to this day when it disappears from my rear view mirror—I feel like I'm leaving a little bit of my soul behind with it.
Fields that I recognize begin to glide past my backseat window as mom's car presses forward. Then the candy store, just as I left it. Then the turn.
We're on Holiday Road; only minutes left, now.
And then there it is—that old familiar house, made with wood from the vast land in which it sat that my Grandmother carried to the sawmill. The house where Aunt Lynne would play the piano Christmas Eve for the Christmas carols we'd sing wearing our wooly socks and sweaters. Her sweater had Christmas bells on it. The house with the easy chair where Grammy would sit in blue—and Poppy would make Old Fashions and sing "We Three Kings of Orient Are" in his deep baritone. Where the oldest member of the house would read us The Night Before Christmas before we'd each hang our stockings on the wooden fireplace mantel. And yes, we'd leave Santa milk and cookies before all of us kids would shuffle up the stairs to go to bed.
We all knew that later Jim would be making Manhattans for the adults while they wrapped gifts.
Dinner had tradition too: a long wooden, red paisley-covered table that Grammy's dad had made with barely enough room for everything. Barely enough room for the three kinds of mustard, the four different breads, or for Grammy's tomato jam. That's because on Christmas Eve, and I mean every Christmas Eve, what seemed to take up most of the table was the giant fresh ham that was our Christmas Eve dinner center piece. All day it had filled the house with rich smells and warmth. Setting the table with our best silverware and dawning our best clothes made sense for this meal because each year it was, without fail, unforgettable.
So unforgettable in fact, that I want to share it with you. Merry Christmas everyone. Marissa and I would also like to thank each and everyone one of you for being a part of our Bee Raw family—and our tradition.
From our table to yours.
Honey Brined Fresh Ham
One 15 to 20 lb. Bone-in Fresh Ham (ask butcher to trim excess fat – do not remove remaining fat)
• 6 cups water
• 2 cups coarse sea salt
• 1 cup Bee Raw Buckwheat Honey Shop Now
• 1 cup Bee Raw Blueberry Honey Shop Now
• 2 cinnamon sticks
• 6 star anise
• 1 cup apple cider vinegar
• 1 tablespoon whole cloves
• Fresh herbs on branches
• ½ cup of sage leaves
• ½ cup thyme
• ½ cup rosemary
• 1 cup Blueberry Honey Shop Now
• 1 cup reserved Brining Liquid
1. Combine water, salt, buckwheat and blueberry honey, cinnamon and star anise in a medium sauce pan and bring to boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool. Add Vinegar.
2. Score ham with cross-hatch pattern on a diagonal; press cloves into the intersections.
3. Place ham in a large container, with herbs. Add brine and then water to cover. Store under 40°F for 24 to 48 hours.
Cooking the Ham
1. Allow the Ham to come up to room temperature for 2 to 3 hours prior to cooking.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
3. Drain brine from ham, reserve 6 cups of brine and herbs and spices.
4. Cover the bottom of roasting pan or very large Dutch oven with herbs, cinnamon and star anise from brine. Place the ham on the herbs and add 4 cups of reserved brining liquid.
5. Bake covered at 350°F. Calculate 22 to 26 minuets per pound.
6. After 4 hours check the internal temperature. When the temperature reads 140°F remove the cover.
7. Mix Blueberry Honey and 1 cup brining liquid. Brush or baste Ham with glaze and repeat every 20 minuets until internal temperature reaches 160°F.
8. Remove the ham from the oven, partially cover and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes before cutting.