Ham for the Holidays

This is a story about how something quite unlikely became as much of a fixture at our holiday table as the glazed ham and deviled eggs.

Traditions, I think, ground us – they give us a familiar sense of time and place – kind of like the ultimate security blanket. They keep us connected and we find ourselves looking forward to holiday-specific events or rituals that we repeat year after year. One of my (now) all-time favorites involves an unusual gift from my husband. When Adam was on the road with Southern Living, he would always bring me little trinkets and unique “surcies” from his travels – he really spoiled me and I racked up some pretty cool tchotchkes in that period of time since he has exquisite taste. Ninety-nine percent of the time. Notice I said ninety-nine percent.

His winning streak ended with “The Chicken.”

The Easter Chicken
The Easter Chicken

I admit I’m like a little girl opening presents – Christmas, especially – and this particular time was no exception. I excitedly ripped open the paper, asking, “What is it?” squealing with delight in anticipation of my newest addition. At first, I thought it was a joke when I saw “it” in its box.

I said, “Ha, ha, very funny. Now, where’s the real gift?”

“That is your real gift,” Adam answered dryly. “What??? You mean you don’t like it?”

Still believing he was trying to pull a fast one on me, I laughed it off, saying, “Hilarious.” Then I saw his disappointed face.

“Oh, my God! Adam? You’re serious? You actually bought…thought…I mean, you…Honey, it’s a yellow…chicken… pitcher! And the spout is its beak. It’s….tacky.

He picked it up and pretended to pour in the air. “No, it’s not. It’s colorful. It’s happy! I like it. It says fun to me.”

“But, sweetheart…you do realize that whatever beverage we put in it will be dispensed through its mouth. Think about it. It’ll look like it’s regurgitating.”

“That’s what makes it funny!” he quipped.

Seeing that he was quite smitten with the fowl thing, I knew I had to do some damage control. Think, Cheryl! Think!  Easter was just around the corner. We had plans with friends. Perfect! We can use The Chicken for the party and at Christmas, then I can hide the hideous carafe store the vibrantly-painted container the other 363 days. That’ll make it special! A twice-a-year unveiling!

Adam was okay with that, so that’s what we did. We relegated The Chicken to one duty and one duty alone: serving mimosas at holiday time (Christmas and Easter only). It was a huge hit and an instant cult classic. Ever hear grown people make “Bawk! Bawk!” noises with their arms tucked under, flapping in the air as they poured their drink? (This was after a few rounds, mind you. Pretty funny stuff.) Everyone was really hamming it up with The Chicken as the bubbly nectar flowed freely from its beak. So, now, each year when the designated holidays roll around, we invite our friends and family to celebrate the big dinner this way: “People, we’re breaking out The Chicken!” and everyone knows that it is so on.

It’s a family tradition!

There’s nothing quite like a ham sitting pretty for your holiday dinner with its juicy, rosy meat crowned with a sweet and spicy caramelized glaze. If you think about it, glaze is to ham what stuffing is to turkey – so feel free to make it your own. My version with apricot preserves and brown sugar echoes the sweet hints from the ham’s cure, setting off the salt and smoke of the meat with a savory, mustard and garlic note. How can we not love ham? It has all the tastes we love best and leaves us all those leftovers to love! Plus, I’ve updated the recipe to make it even easier – order a spiral-cut ham so you don’t even have to slice it! And just whisk the glaze together in a bowl – no need to drag out your food processor!

Apricot-Glazed Ham with Garlic, Mustard and Rosemary

Prep time
Cook time
Total time
5 mins
2 hours
2 hours 5 mins
Author: Cheryl Beverage Barnes
Recipe type: Entrees
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12 to 16
Apricot-Glazed Ham with Garlic, Mustard and Rosemary
Apricot-Glazed Ham with Garlic, Mustard and Rosemary


  • one (12- to 14-pound) fully cooked, spiral-cut smoked ham
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • one jar (13-ounces) apricot preserves
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh minced rosemary


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large roasting pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil (or use a disposable roasting pan). Place the ham in the roasting pan, cut-side down, onto the rack and wrap tightly in foil; roast for one hour.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the garlic, preserves, brown sugar, ginger, mustard, orange zest and juice, lemon zest and juice and rosemary. Remove the foil from the ham; pour the glaze over the ham and bake until the ham is fully heated through (the internal temperature should register 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer) and the glaze is well-browned, about 1 hour. (If the glaze starts to burn, tent the ham with buttered foil.) Let the ham stand for 15 minutes before carving.


…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:

Planning: A general rule of thumb for heating a fully-cooked ham is about 10 minutes per pound. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT neglect to line your roasting pan with heavy aluminum foil! Believe me, cooks who have tried in vain to scrub off permanently blackened pans with a scorched veneer that clings like Crazy Glue won’t forget the second time!

Product Purity: Steer clear of hams that have been injected with saline or other additives (like MSG). These hams are sometimes labeled as “water added.” Make sure the preserves and mustard are free of high fructose corn syrup. I use Bonne Maman and Grey Poupon.

Presentation: Choose a pretty platter or a wooden carving board to serve your ham on, surrounded by grapes, sprigs of fresh rosemary and slices of oranges.

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