JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Once in a while, I like to do a real Sunday dinner, complete with a honking great hunk of meat and a homemade dessert. Usually when I get the urge, I'll roast a chicken or a pork loin - something I can stick in the oven, turn on the timer, and forget about until the bell rings.
Today's recipe is NOT that. It's that southern classic, Coca-Cola Ham, which requires basting every twenty minutes. I call it a lazy Sunday dinner because the best way to make it is to turn on the classical music station and camp out in the kitchen with a good book or the Sunday paper. If you buy one of the big two liter bottles, you can enjoy a little rum and Coke while cooking. Also, if you can lay hands on the Kosher-for-Passover or the Mexican Coke (both made with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup) use that instead. As good as regular Co'cola ham is, it's even better basted with the beverage that tastes like your childhood.
The recipe I prefer is from Jane and Michael Stern's Square Meals (1985), a collection of Americana recipes from the nineteen-twenties through the nineteen-sixties. I've had the book - it's as much culinary history as it is a cookbook - for thirty-one years now, and I still refer to it regularly.
COCA COLA HAM
1 10-pound precooked ham (not cured or canned.) I always get the cheapest one I can find.
6 cups Coca Cola
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 Tbls dry mustard
2 Tbls prepared sharp mustard (I've used all prepared mustard when I didn't have dry; increasing the amount to 4 tablespoons.)
2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 325F
Place the ham fat side down in a shallow baking pan and pour in enough Coke to fill the pan to about a half inch. Bake 2-3 hours, or until a meat thermometer reads 140F, basting with the Coke ever 20 minutes.
Remove the ham from the pan and let it cool. Mix the remaining ingredients with enough Coke to make a thick paste. When you can touch the ham without yelping, trim away the rind and fat (make sure your knife is good and sharp for this!) Place the ham on a roasting rack in the pan and slather on the paste mixture. Add the rest of the Coke to the pan.
Increase oven temp to 375F and bake for another 45 minutes, basting every 10-15 minutes. The paste will turn to a delicious dark glaze. Let the ham stand for about a half hour before carving.
Yes, it takes time. But I swear the taste is worth it, and you'll have enough ham left after dinner to eat fabulous ham sandwiches the rest of the week.