Most of us grew up seeing a juicy ham on every holiday table. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, Easter, and many holidays in between. But have you ever wondered where the tradition of the festive holiday ham came from?
We were curious too, so our research elves did some digging and are sharing all the answers. Keep reading to learn:
- The history of ham for the holidays
- Our absolute favorite holiday ham glaze recipes
- Tasty ideas for using the leftovers from your holiday ham cooking
- + Tips for thawing, roasting, and storing ham.
The History of Holiday Ham
We should clarify up front that there are several sources and claims that seek to explain the tradition of eating ham for the holidays.
The two most commonly cited explanations are rooted in practicality and cultural/religious traditions. Let’s explore both.
Why Do We Eat Ham for the Holidays? The Practical Answer.
Many food historians believe that our holiday ham tradition is linked with cold weather months (Thanksgiving and Christmas) thanks to our medieval ancestors.
During pre-refrigeration times, pork could be easily carried and stored without refrigeration for a long period of time. For this reason, it became a popular gift when relatives were traveling to visit loved ones.
Additionally, as we’ll mention below, many cultures have associated pigs with abundance and good fortune. This further explains why pigs became a common gift on special occasions like births and weddings.
Why Do We Eat Ham for the Holidays? The Cultural Answer.
Although ham is commonly served in conjunction with several Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter, the tradition of eating ham during wintertime can be traced several centuries back – long before Christianity.
Germanic Pagans commonly served wild boar during Yuletide, a wintertime festival. Similarly, Norse Pagans sacrificed and feasted on wild boar during Winter Solstice celebrations to honor Freyr, the god who represented fertility and a bountiful harvest.
Over time, Christianity emerged and became the more dominant religion in Northern Europe, but pork as a tradition during the colder months continued to be passed down through the generations.
Tasty Ham Glaze Recipes for Your Holiday Feast
We’re a bunch of carnivores who believe that any cut of meat can become a brand new culinary experience with the right recipe, quality ingredients, and tools. We love food experiments!
But is it possible to get too innovative with your home cooking? When it comes to the sweet simplicity of a pasture-raised and sugar-free ham, our answer is YES.
That's why we tend to rotate between one of two holiday ham glaze recipes, year after year. Here are our top favorites:
Holiday Feast Ham: Maple Pomegranate Glaze
Our Grass Roots sugar-free hams make holiday prep that much easier because they’re shipped to your doorstep fully cooked. All you have to do is heat and enjoy. But for special family holiday dinners, we like to add a glaze that creates a glossy and elegant exterior full of flavor. This recipe delivers exactly that with a fruity, tarty, sweetness that fits the occasion perfectly.
Holiday Feast Ham: Honey Mustard Ham Glaze
Looking for thawing, warming, and heating instructions for your holiday ham? Before the ingredient list for this bold ham glaze recipe, our culinary pros have gathered together their top How-To Ham Tips. Check those out, and then roll into the recipe. The mustard in this glaze recipe offers a subtle, tangy kick that perfectly complements the sweetness of honey and pasture-raised ham. Plus, the aromatic scent that fills the house is nothing short of spectacular.
Holiday Ham Cooking: Storing and Reheating Leftovers
Explore our Thanksgiving Leftovers Guide for essential Do’s and Don’t’s for storing and reheating your holiday ham leftovers.
Plus, the Guide includes tips and suggested leftovers recipes for the other bestsellers in our holiday meats collection, like pasture-raised turkey, beef, and lamb.
Holiday Ham Cooking: 3 Delicious Leftover Ideas
Arguably, the biggest benefit of cooking a ham for the holidays is that after it serves as the beautiful centerpiece on your table, the leftovers present endless options.
Here are a few of our favorite ways to use leftover holiday ham:
Cloud Eggs & Ham
Upgrade a holiday brunch with these airy eggs delicately layered over a savory slice of ham. Make it even heartier by adding leftover sweet potato casserole or quickly saute whatever’s in your vegetable drawer.
Roasted Garlic Sauerkraut & Ham Casserole
At first glance, the name of this recipe might leave you a bit confused. It’s an innovative one, for sure. But if the intersection of gut-friendly sauerkraut, cheesy potatoes, and salty ham activates your curiosity at all, this is one that won’t disappoint. Instead of the same ol’ same ol’, serve this original and deeply satisfying recipe and watch the compliments rush in.
Antipasto Grilled Cheese & Ham Sandwiches
This is NOT your average ham sandwich. This recipe elevates the classic grilled cheese with Italian antipasto flavors for a delightful fusion of creamy, savory, and tangy tastes.