I really enjoy a good baked ham so I approached this card with both anticipation and trepidation. You see, my mum’s Christmas Eve ham is the stuff of legend. Partly because of her preparation, partly because we only have it once a year, but I think mostly because it comes from Herb Brittner’s Smokehouse & Radiator Shop. Herb’s is in the tiny town of Zelienople, PA (which is where I spent most of my formative years). This ham is magic (as is Herb’s beef jerky). Every year we still trek up to Herb’s to buy the ham, although we all left Zelie years ago.
Anyway, here I am, in Baltimore, hours away from a Herb ham, cooking in the shadow of my mum’s epic Christmas ham, and working with a 3.5 pound Smithfield in shrink wrap. Daunting, no?
So, smaller ham, tiny kitchen, lower expectations.
First things first. The menu items that I prepared the day before. No. 1 was the dessert: Butterscotch Nut Pudding.
Isn’t that adorable? I think this is from the early-60s. I made the recipe that’s on it. I think that if you click the photo it enlarges. Anyway, that’s pretty much it. The only changes that I made were to use skim milk, and I subbed slivered almonds for the peanuts. I have a huge bag of them in the cupboard, so why not? I did toast them in a frying pan slightly, add salt, beat them with a rolling pin and folded them into the pudding. The nuts gave the pudding a weird texture, but one that I really liked.
Speaking of weird textures, we come to the second pre-made dish: Molded Applesauce Salad, which is a JELL-O MOLD!!! Not being well-versed in the art of Jell-O making, I didn’t know where to start so I found this recipe from 1967. It didn’t sound too bad.
And it wasn’t–it was rather simple. Aside from zesting the lemon, the most involved aspect (as I imagined it would be) was getting the damn thing out of the bowl. This experience made me realize that I need to invest in real, actual, gelatin molds in pretty shapes so all of my Jell-O dishes don’t look like the old Civic Arena.
My completed Molded Applesauce Salad ended up looking nothing like what was in the original photo. In the original the cinnamon candies were suspended throughout the Jell-O and applesauce like tiny scarlet bubbles. Mine just settled into a big, red blob. It’s not the most attractive dish I have made. I liken it to a dome-shaped Tequila Sunrise. Well, here it is, my first ever Jell-O salad:
Now onto the main event:
I have found that–in the manner that I do most things–I never do any of the recipes in order. I know that part of point of Dinner is Served! is to work on the timeline, but I still don’t do it. I will use Card #45 as an example.
3:30. Bake Ham. Or you can do what I did and put the sweet potatoes on to boil at 4, and then have the casserole assembled by 4:20. *Note: my camera battery died and I don’t have a picture of the recipe from Card #94, but basically just combine 6 large cooked sweet potatoes, 1/4 cup butter, salt, rind of 1 orange, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and enough orange juice to make it all light and fluffy before popping it, covered, into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove cover, top with marshmallows or marshmallow creme, and brown.
5:00 Prepare Sweet Potato Casserole.Or you can throw in the ham at 4:40 in a 325 degree oven (since the ham you are preparing is one-fourth of the size of recommended ham and Dinner is Served! says that it will take 10 minutes per pound of ham), and put the casserole in the oven at 5:00.
5:15 Prepare Raisin Sauce. Or more like, at 5:20 realize that ham is absolutely nowhere near being cooked since you can stick your finger in the middle and it still feels cold, so you pull it out of the oven and slash the fat into those little diamond shapes before you put it back in.
5:30 Prepare Green Beans with Dill. Or make the raisin sauce now and let it sit.
6:00 Bon Appetit! Enjoy Your Dinner! Or you still aren’t there yet. At 5:40 the meat thermometer reads right under 130 degrees (prime ham internal temp), so you take it out, slap on the glaze and put it back in, upping the oven temperature to 350. Did you remember that the sweet potato casserole has been in there since 5:00? Whatever. It’s covered and seems fine. Then at 6:00 microwave the green beans for six minutes. 6:06, top beans with a mix of dried dill weed, butter, salt & pepper, and a lemon slice. At 6:30 the ham finally reaches 130 degrees! It’s out to rest. And the raisin sauce gets heated up and the green beans go into the oven with the sweet potatoes. Yes, they are still in there.
Finally, at 6:45 DINNER IS SERVED!
So, really, all things considered, I didn’t do tooooo bad.