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With the arrival of spring comes Easter, and in the world of food Easter means serving up ham.

Ham is the traditional meal for the holiday. Look in any grocery market and hams are everywhere, usually at a great price. Hams also have the ability to stretch your food dollar because they make great leftovers for days to come.

Legend has it that ham became the star of Easter dinner because of the curing process. In pre-refrigeration days, pigs were slaughtered in late fall and the hams were cured several months then aged for several more, making the meat ready just in time for Easter dinner.

As a little aside, pigs are also a symbol of prosperity in many cultures. Think of Piggy Banks.

My favorite ham to serve up is the country ham, which comes from the hind leg of the pig so the tenderness and leanness are the best. An old myth says that ham made with the left hind leg is more tender than the right hind leg, but I don’t believe that has ever been proved. I do know the hind legs are the leanest cuts of meat.

Glazes are important to enhance the true flavor of the ham. For every family there is probably a favorite ham glaze used. Some common accompaniments to a ham in the oven include cloves, cherries and pineapple. I only use cloves on a ham but sparingly because I find too many cloves overpower the meat. As for pineapple and cherries, I save those for dessert.

One of the recipes for today is Southern Baked Ham, which I learned while visiting Louisiana a few months back. The other is an easy pineapple dessert that fits well with Easter dinner. You still get the pineapple, just not on the ham.

The recipe for Southern Baked Ham works for whichever cut of ham you have. You can get a shank or butt ham and achieve delicious flavor and tenderness with this recipe. Actually, I tried this recipe with a shank and I couldn’t believe how tender and succulent it was. The shanks and butts are generally less expensive, so you need the right recipe to bring them up to the delicious taste you get from a nice ham. Believe me, this is the perfect recipe to do just that.

SOUTHERN BAKED HAM

5 tablespoons of honey

2 tablespoons of light brown sugar

1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard

10-pound ham, any cut

1 teaspoon of ground cloves

3/4 teaspoon of allspice

1 teaspoon of nutmeg

1 teaspoon of light brown sugar

12 ounces of Coca-Cola

GLAZE

5 tablespoons of honey

2 tablespoons of light brown sugar

1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard

ground cloves, allspice and nutmeg

Line your baking pan with aluminum foil. Place the ham on the foil and pour the Coke over it. Mix up the spices and rub them all over the ham, then seal the foil around the ham. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes per pound. Take the ham out of the pan and throw away the foil. Cut off most of the fat, and poke holes in the ham with a knife. Mix up a little of the ground cloves, allspice and nutmeg with the glazing ingredients. Heat this all together on the stove until it becomes a smooth liquid. Pour it over the ham, and keep it as thick as you can. Return the ham to the oven for another 25 minutes Let sit for a few minutes outside the oven before slicing, and serve.

PINEAPPLE VANILLA WAFER CAKE

1 stick of butter, and 1 stick of margarine combined

1 cup of sugar

1 large can crushed pineapple

1 box vanilla wafers

2 boxes of Dream Whip, made according to directions

Chopped nuts if desired.

Cream the butter, margarine and sugar together. Add in the pineapple and nuts if you are using them. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan and lay the vanilla wafers on the bottom. Add the pineapple mixture and top with another layer of the wafers. Cover it all with the Dream Whip and refrigerate it for two days prior to serving.