Joni Woolf: Traditional Easter feast includes ham, trimmings

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, April 15, 2017

There are few Easter menus to be found that do not include baked ham in some fashion. The easy answer is to buy a baked, sliced, ready-to-warm-in-the-oven ham and save your energy for other things. But for those of us who are convinced that the way we show our love for family and friends, a ham must be prepared and cooked — by us! I offered a good ham recipe several weeks ago (Ham with a Latin Twist) and it was enjoyed by all the friends who came for brunch. But looking through recipes as I get ready for Easter, I found an old favorite, given me by Lynn Cass years ago. It is different from other ham recipes I have tried, and it has always turned out “right.”  Served with a couple of the sides listed below, this ham will be the centerpiece of the Easter feast.

Port-Apple Ham
Purchase 6 to 8 lb. shank or butt ham (I prefer shank)
Begin by slicing 5 or 6 apples (6 to 8 slices per apple), put in gallon baggie, pour 1 cup port wine over apples and soak 30-45 minutes.
Score ham in diamond pattern and place cloves in diamonds. Cover ham with Dijon mustard. Pat light brown sugar all over ham. Drizzle pure maple syrup over ham.
Arrange apples at bottom of pan that is used to bake ham. Pour port wine over apples. Bake at 350 degrees F., 15 minutes per pound.
This recipe is easy, delicious, and keeps well — if there’s any left. (Hint: to make cleaning the pan easier, line with aluminum foil.)

Broiled Parmesan Tomatoes (made with plum tomatoes, available all year)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
¼ cup fine dry breadcrumbs (Panko crumbs will work well here)
3 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
8 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Garnish: fresh basil leaves
Combine Parmesan cheese, chopped basil, breadcrumbs, and crumbled bacon in small bowl. Sprinkle plum tomato halves evenly with salt and pepper, and place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with Pam (or equivalent). Spoon cheese mixture evenly over tomato halves. Broil tomato halves 5 inches from heat 7 to 8 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Marinated Asparagus (this is different from an earlier one published)
2/3 cup vinegar
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon celery seed
3 three-inch pieces cinnamon
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 lbs. steamed asparagus (you want it crisp; steam only 2-3 minutes)
Combine first five ingredients with ½ cup water. Add ½ teaspoon salt. Boil gently, uncovered, five minutes. Cool slightly. Pour marinade over steamed asparagus that has been placed in gallon baggie; turn a couple of times while in refrigerator. Drain asparagus and serve marinade on the side if desired (I did not).

Deviled Eggs
Most of us know how to make deviled eggs, so I won’t print instructions. But I did like Virginia Willis’s variation in her book “Bon Appetit, Y’all.” She uses much less mayonnaise than many folks, and adds butter, as listed below. These are great deviled eggs, and as she says, takes them  from delicious to sublime. Try it.
12 large eggs, hard boiled
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon, chives, or chervil, plus leaves for garnish.

Now, ask a family member to bring a salad: potato, broccoli or brussels sprouts, and you have a complete meal. As Virginia Willis would say, “Bon Appetit, Y’all.”  Happy Easter.

-Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at