We love Christmastime. This merry holiday is celebrated around the world, and each corner has its own special Christmas traditions. Still, one tradition stays consistent whether you’re celebrating in Iowa’s gorgeous plains or the beaches of California: A delicious, perfectly juicy Christmas dinner with glazed ham as the main attraction.
There are over 300 million pounds of holiday ham consumed every holiday season, so it’s no surprise that this meat has become an American staple. In this article, we’ll talk about how ham overtook turkey as the holiday meal of choice, how to prepare the perfect feast for your family, and a few ideas about what to do with your ham once the holiday is over!
Where Did the Christmas Ham Tradition Come From?
There are a few stories about the beginnings of Christmas ham, including a Norse tradition honoring the god Freyr and his golden boar, Gullenbursti, that preferred large meals. This is a fun tale to tell while carving your roast, but it isn’t actually the start of this delicious tradition.
In America, the Christmas ham dinner as we know it was developed in the 1930s when the traditional form of glaze switched from being savory and stock-based to including sugar. It wasn’t until the 1960s when the meal was heavily popularized through an advertisement campaign by the Amour Company that tied the dish with everyone's favorite holiday: Christmas.
While less fantastical than a ritual praising the lord of the boar, we still appreciate the history of the Christmas ham. No matter it got to us, it’s here to stay now!
Bone-in or Boneless?
With most meats, you may find yourself asking: Should you choose the bone-in option or the boneless? There isn’t a wrong answer since it's all about your preference and plan. As long as you’re buying your meat from a local and responsibly operated farm, your ham is sure to come out perfect every time.
Bone-in ham has more flavor due to the bone itself: Imagine a savory stock being cooked in the center of your roast and emitting its natural flavors. You also get the picture-perfect presentation with a bone-in ham, as the classic American vision of a ham dinner.
However, you do have to carve around the bone, which some may find a little complex, and you are a bit limited in how you can present your ham without completely carving it up.
Boneless ham offers a similar (albeit slightly less flavorful) option, but your experience is much simpler. Cutting straight through the ham provides cleaner slices. If you were thinking of presenting your roast differently than the classic ham-on-tray, then perhaps the boneless option would better suit your table.
How To Prepare Ham
Since all of our hams are delivered fully cooked, cured, and smoked, all you need to do is reheat your ham however you’d like. While it depends on what sides you’re serving alongside your protein, our top recommendation is to oven roast, as this process typically provides the most succulent and flavorful results.
- Oven-Baked Ham: Place your ham on a roasting pan with water or stock in the bottom. Secure tin foil over the top of the ham to enclose it in the pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes of cook time for every pound your ham weighs.
- Slow Cooker or Crockpot: Put your meat into the slow cooker along with any type of glazing mix you prefer. You should, at the very least, have some type of liquid in the tray with your ham. Water, stock, or even your favorite cola will do the trick. Slow cook for six to eight hours on low, checking every hour and a half to ensure you aren’t overcooking. Before serving, remove from the slow cooker and finish off under the broiler with an extra brushing of your caramelized glaze mix for a perfect crust.
What To Serve With Your Christmas Ham Recipe
The ham will certainly be the most important element of your Christmas feast, but every star needs a supporting cast. These Christmas side dishes will be a hit with your whole family.
Mashed potatoes, potato wedges, crispy roasted garlic potatoes, scalloped potatoes — you can’t go wrong. Everyone's favorite starch deserves a spot in your holiday feast. Of course, sweet potatoes with a delicious brown sugar glaze are a beloved centerpiece in any holiday dinner. Whichever potato recipe you choose, you’re in for a treat.
To balance the succulent ham main course, try adding some brightly flavored vegetables such as green beans, brussels sprouts, roasted carrots, or zucchini to your dish! Butternut squash can make a delicious side dish recipe as well, and it’s a welcome addition to your Christmas dinner menu.
Is it even a meal if there isn’t some form of bread? Make sure to include warm, buttery rolls on the table this holiday season, either Hawaiian sweet rolls, cornbread muffins, or traditional butter rolls. All of these options are classic comfort foods to enjoy on Christmas day and beyond.
Sweet appetizers and desserts are always perfect additions to your favorite holiday dinner recipe. While you could go the store-bought route here, making your own pecan pie or pumpkin tart will make the holidays unforgettable.
Leftover Ham Dinner Ideas
It happens every year: The holidays come and go, and everyone is still full from last night's feast … but there’s still more ham in the fridge. Don’t fret! There are plenty of ways to make the most out of your delicious meats.
A classic idea is to make ham sandwiches. You could even re-use any rolls you have left over to make sliders, or you could slice chunks off to serve next to some fried eggs and potato wedges for a hearty breakfast. You can also go the sweet and savory route and throw some cranberry sauce on your dish.
Of course, in the spirit of the most giving time of year, make sure your family members take some home to enjoy, too!
The Main Dish This Thanksgiving
Thanks to the Armour Company — and with a little help from the Norse god Freyr — every year on December 25th, we’ve got the perfect meal at our fingertips.
The details are yours to smooth out, like what side dishes you’ll include, what type of glaze to use, and whether you’ll opt for bone-in or boneless. No matter which way you cut it, a Christmas ham dinner is going to make the perfect holiday feast for you and your family.