Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spiral Sliced Ham Steam Roasted in the Pressure Cooker

When I tell people about how quick and easy it is to cook all kinds of foods in today's modern pressure cookers, a ham -- gammon to my friends across the sea -- is probably not something they've ever thought about, and certainly not a spiral cut ham. Those who have tried to pressure cook a ham, most likely drowned it in water, boiled it to death, and then proudly served that rubbery ham at dinner. Eeek!

Let me show you a better way

The Steam Roasting method is an excellent way to cook meats in the dry, superheated steam of the modern pressure cooker with their precision pressure valves. Yes, I said 'dry'. When foods are elevated above a minimum amount of water, the steam is actually very dry so the surface of the food stays drier too. The meat looks more like it was cooked in the oven when you Steam Roast rather than boiling it.

For this recipe I'm using a 4lb. fully cooked spiral cut ham, this cut of ham that is very popular and readily available in every supermarket. The directions say to cook in the oven for 18 minutes per pound at 325°F., or about 1 hour and 12 minutes, but by using the pressure cooker, I'm going to cut that down to -- wait for it! -- just 14 minutes! Why, you ask in amazement... how is this miracle possible?

Well, it really very simple. If you look closely at any spiral cut ham, you'll see that it's not a solid piece of meat like a whole ham, but just a stack of thin slices of ham that are barely held together by a minimal attachment to the hambone. So essentially, we are only cooking a bunch of thin ham slices until they are heated all the way through to the bone in the middle... minutes, yes?

Place the ham cut side down in a steamer basket to make it easier to lift it out of the cooker. Most pressure cookers come with such accessories, but if you don't have one, then just use the foil Helper Handles under the ham instead.

I brushed on a little sweet/hot mustard over the surface of my ham to help keep the edges moist. Try some natural fruit preserves made without added sugar -- blackberry mixed with hot mustard is really good -- but any sort of glaze adds a nice flavor and appearance. If you like to use jams, honey, maple syrup or molasses, remember that the heat will just make the sugars melt and run off. The trick then, is to wait until the ham comes out of the pressure cooker and then brush on your sugary glazes and pop it under the broiler for a few minutes. This way you you can keep basting as the sugars caramelize.

Ready for more?
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