Quite a few years ago, I concocted a recipe for Ham that became the very first Food Writing I ever did.
It was published in Saveur Magazine in 1995 in a story I wrote titled: “The Ham Gambit: How Carlotta fed 30 people for $6.99”. Much to my great pleasure, Saveur then published the recipe in their superb “Saveur Cooks Authentic American” (Chronicle Books 1998). And the first thing I knew the New York Times singled out my ham as the reason alone to buy the $40. Book.
Here’s what reviewer Suzanne Hamlin said when it appeared in the Times on September 30, 1998.
“The recipe for Monte’s Ham alone may be worth the price of admission. Monte Mathews, an Advertising Executive, writes: “When I first came to New York, a friend gave me two pieces of advice: first, if you wear an expensive watch, you can wear anything else you want; second when you have a lot of people over, buy a ham.” Mr. Mathews already had the watch, but he was flummoxed by the ham until he went to a party and saw hordes of guests tucking into a giant, glistening specimen. Begging his hostess for the secret, she disclosed “Buy a ham, glaze the hell out of it and cook it for a long, long time.” Cooked to his instructions, (I) served (Monte’s Ham) to a group of ten with professed discerning palates. (In truth, cut into half-inch slices, the ham would serve 30 or more.) They went crazy for Monte’s Ham, clamoring for seconds and thirds, grabbing nubbins from the platter, and boldly demanding to take home the leftovers. The big, deeply bronzed beauty was truly delicious–succulent and moist on the inside, sweetly glazed and crisp on the outside.” I am sure you can well imagine how very pleased I was with the review which appeared on my Mother’s birthday of all days.
Eleven years later, I changed how I felt about “Cheap Ham”
When I left Advertising, I looked for something worthwhile to do. I hit upon the idea of an internet-based business selling Monte’s Ham and Glaze. But I made a major shift in direction: I discovered that factory-farmed hams are probably one of the great travesties in American farming. I won’t go into the details but please, when you buy ham, check on its origins. And if it’s too cheap, it’s almost bound to have been raised in a perfectly awful way. Look for “Animal Welfare Approved” or “Certified Humane Raised and Handled” labels. Don’t buy Supermarket ham unless you know where it came from and how it was raised. That’s a Christmas gift I’d like you to give me in return for this recipe.
I found my hams in Upstate New York at Purdy & Sons a family-owned business that had been curing their hams the same way for over 50 years.
Purdy & Son’s hams were superb and early on they achieved quite a degree of success. Picked up by Williams-Sonoma, they were served at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. And there lay the problem. Try as I might, I could not sell a ham at any other time. As my writing career took off and ham sales were limited to three back-breaking sales periods, I faced a grim reality. My holidays were given over to ham. And the other reality was that the only business that made money off Monte’s Ham was the United Parcel Service. So I made the decision to give up selling Monte’s Ham. The Glaze, however, is another story, and don’t be surprised if it resurfaces here. I can’t say that I miss selling hams. I’m free to travel and write. And anytime I want, I can haul out the recipe and make a nice big, beautifully glazed Monte’s Ham.
I send all of my terrifically loyal readers my very best wishes for the Happiest of Easters surrounded by your friends and family.
Here is the recipe for Monte’s Ham and Glaze:
Monte's Ham and Glaze
The ham that made me famous can you famous for your ham too! Great for Buffets, big family gatherings and, of course, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas
- 15 lb. smoked ham on the bone
- 1 1⁄2 cups orange marmalade
- 1 cup dijon mustard
- 1 1⁄2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. whole cloves
- Step 1 Preheat oven to 300°. Trim tough outer skin and excess fat from ham. Place ham, meat side down, in a large roasting pan, and score, making crosshatch incisions with a sharp knife. Roast for 2 hours.
- Step 2 While the ham cooks, make the glaze. Combine orange marmalade, mustard, and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Stud ham with whole cloves (stick one clove at the intersection of each crosshatch), then brush with glaze and return to oven.
- Step 3 Remove ham from oven and increase heat to 350°.
- Step 4 Cook ham another 1 1⁄2 hours, brushing with glaze at least 3 times. Transfer to a cutting board or platter and allow to rest for about 30 minutes. Carve and serve warm or at room temperature.