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Rob Valencia’s Spiced Ham

Every family’s Thanksgiving table is a little different, and that became even clearer when we asked restaurant people to finish this sentence: It’s not Thanksgiving without my . . . .

Spiced Ham

“I grew up in San Antonio, and all of our relatives from Mexico used to come and join us,” says Northside Social pastry chef Rob Valencia. “They always brought a spiced ham glazed with piloncillo—Mexican brown sugar—pineapple, and chilis. Eventually I grew up and realized no one else ate ham and Mexicans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. But all my cousins did!”

Serves 10 to 15.

1 5-pound precooked, bone-in ham, available at markets like Whole Foods
20 whole cloves
2 cups apple cider
1 pound piloncillo sugar, available at Latin grocery stores (if you can’t find it, you can substitute Muscovado sugar, available at Whole Foods)
2 small dried morita chiles (smoked red jalapenos), or dried chipotle peppers, cut into thin strips  
1 tablespoon cinnamon
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Score the ham with a knife, and stud it with the whole cloves. Place the ham in foil-lined pan.

In a medium pot set over medium-high heat, combine the apple cider, piloncillo, chiles, cinnamon, and butter. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Reduce by half to make a thick glaze, about 30 minutes.

Using a pastry brush, brush a third of the glaze over the ham. Keep the remaining glaze warm. Bake the ham for 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting it every 10 to 15 minutes with the extra glaze. During the last 4 to 5 minutes of baking, turn on the broiler to caramelize the glaze. Take the ham out of the oven and let it sit a few minutes before serving.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.