Yes, this ham takes about six hours to cook. Yes, it is pretty messy. But it is so worth it. We’ve had this ham every year for Christmas dinner since 2006. It’s a must eat. It started by watching Alton Brown’s CityHam/Country Ham episode Ham I am. I used to watch it while making it. Now, I don’t need to.
1 city style (brined) ham, hock end (with bone in)
1/4 cup brown mustard (you might need more)
2 cups dark brown sugar (I’ve used light in a pinch)
1-ounce bourbon (even the cheap stuff will do, poured into a spritz bottle)
2 cups crushed ginger snap cookies
Part One: Heat oven to 250 degrees F. Remove ham from bag (in the sink!), rinse and drain thoroughly. Place ham, cut side down, in a roasting pan. Using a small paring knife or clean utility knife set to the smallest blade setting, score the ham from bottom to top, spiraling clockwise as you cut. (If you’re using a paring knife, be careful to only cut through the skin and first few layers of fat). Rotate the ham after each cut so that the scores are no more than 2-inches across. Once you’ve made it all the way around, move the knife to the other hand and repeat, spiraling counter clockwise. The aim is to create a diamond pattern all over the ham. (Don’t worry too much about precision here.) Tent the ham with heavy duty foil, insert a thermometer, and cook for 3 to 4 hours or until the internal temperature at the deepest part of the meat registers 130 degrees F. Remove and use tongs to pull away the diamonds of skin and any sheets of fat that come off with them.
Part Two: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Dab the meat dry with paper towels, then brush on a liberal coat of mustard, using either a basting brush or a clean paint brush (clean as in never-touched paint). Sprinkle on brown sugar, packing loosely as you go until the ham is coated. Spritz this layer lightly with bourbon, then loosely pack on as much of the crushed cookies as you can. Return to the oven (uncovered). Cook until interior temperature reaches 140 degrees F, approximately 1 hour. Let the roast rest for 1/2 hour before carving.
I used to follow his directions of placing it on top of towels to absorb the gooey mess, but this year I just placed it on a rack in the roasting pan. It worked out well. The key with the diamond pattern is to make it easy for the soon to be shrunken skin and desolving fat to be peeled away from the meat. I always end up using a knife to cut underneath. It never peels away as easily as it does on the show. This year I didn’t insert a thermometer (mini disaster last year, involved a melting thermometer). I just set the timer for 3 hours and 30 minutes and checked. With my oven , it was perfect. The meat registered at 131 degrees. I followed the same directions for Part Two, except I retented the ham with the foil. It resulted in a less crisp outercoating, but kept the ham from drying out. Including the resting period, the ham was done in about 5 hours this year.