Christmas Ham


I remember one Christmas when my mother decided to cook the Chinese ham for Christmas Day. The ham was soaked for a couple of days in several changes of water, then it was simmered in pineapple juice and brown sugar. When it was cooked, the skin was peeled off and the fat sprinkled with sugar. An iron spatula called a plancha was heated in the fire, then pressed firmly on the sugared fat to caramelize the ham. This was an old-fashioned method developed in rural areas where there were no large ovens in people’s homes to finish the ham. If you are serving this at a Christmas party, the ham will be a dramatic centerpiece and will be delicious and moist straight from the oven when the glaze is fresh. Leftover ham was what I always looked forward to. I would fry the ham slices in butter, sprinkle some sugar, and squeeze some orange juice on it and let it caramelize.


  • One 17- to 20-pound fresh, ready-to-eat, bone-in smoked ham
  • Six 46-ounce cans unsweetened pineapple juice
  • ½ liter dark rum
  • One 1-pound box dark-brown sugar
  • About 1 cup granulated sugar, for glazing the ham
  • Pickled Pineapple, for serving


  1. In a stockpot large enough to hold the ham and the juice, combine 5 cans of the pineapple juice with the rum and brown sugar and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the ham. If the pineapple-juice mixture doesn’t cover the ham, add more pineapple juice or water to cover. Bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer until you can peel off the skin, about 1 ½ hours. Leave the ham in the stockpot for another hour to let the flavors settle.
  2. Take the ham out of the pot and set on a wire rack in a large roasting pan lined with foil. Let the ham cool slightly, about 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Using a small, sharp paring knife, take the skin off the ham, keeping as much of the fat as possible.
  4. Score the fat in a crisscross fashion with the point of a sharp knife and sprinkle generously with granulated sugar. Bake the ham until the fat and the sugar caramelize, about 20 minutes, watching carefully that the sugar doesn’t burn.