Defrosting a cooked, bone-in beast ham

I just received a HUGE bone-in, spiral cut ham from Niman Ranch. I emailed Niman and unless they're working 7x24, they haven't had a chance to answer yet. I'm being holiday obsessive compulsive, so I figured I'd go for backup and ask the wizards here. It's about 18 lbs. How do I defrost this beast? In the fridge? For how long? Serving it this Saturday 12/20. It's already cooked. I suppose it might be nice to warm it up with more glaze, but I would have to do that the day before, not day of. As you can tell, I don't know a heck of a lot about hams. Except to keep the ham bone for stock.

  • Posted by: Pegeen
  • December 17, 2014


Pegeen December 21, 2014
Hi Dona,

I will have to ask my brother for the egg & sausage casserole. Don't hold your breath.

Cherry Balsamic sauce

Two cups of balsamic vinegar, simmer on very low heat SLOWLY until reduced by half the volume to 1 cup. This will take a long time, don’t become impatient or turn up the heat. It’s important to keep it on very low heat and not boil it. The end result should be thick and syrupy, and coat the back of a spoon.

1 cup dried cherries: they are more expensive but use dried cherries and not Craisins, because Craisins are full of additional sugar and preservatives. Soak the dried cherries in a bowl of hot water for 30 minutes. Drain them and add to the reduced balsamic, stir to combine.

Add 1 Tablespoon cherry preserves. Stir to combine. Heat on a very low simmer for just 1 to 2 minutes.

Take off the heat, let it sit for minute. Now taste. Does it need a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for brightness? A pinch of sugar or salt?
Pegeen December 21, 2014
A friend asked about the rest of the brunch:
- Condiments for the Beastly Ham were balsamic cherry sauce (I can tell you how to make that, if you care to know), caramelized onion mustard, honey mustard, tomato & red pepper spicy relish, grainy Maille mustard
- Egg and sausage casserole
- Overnight French Toast casserole with warmed maple syrup
- Bagels, excellent lox, four kinds of cream cheese, capers, onions, tomatoes
- Fresh fruit salad with a lot of fresh berries, creme fraiche on the side
- Four kinds of coffee cake
- Chocolates
- Mimosas
- Iced water with regular ice cubes, no nonsense
Dona December 21, 2014
I'd love the cherry sauce and egg casserole recipe. I'm hosting Christmas brunch and having a similar menu. Thank you, this reminds me I need to take my smallish ham out of the freezer now.
Pegeen December 21, 2014
p.s. Also, fresh biscuits, placed near the ham in case anyone waned to do a southern ham biscuit thing. I think they were Pillsbury Grands refrigerator biscuits. Excellent.
Pegeen December 20, 2014
Thanks, ChezHenry. But there was no Beauty to the process with this Beast! :-)
Pegeen December 20, 2014
In case it's useful to anyone, here's the outcome of my maiden voyage with defrosting a huge, bone-in spiral cut (cooked) ham:

The Beast got served at a family holiday party today. It was very delicious, but quite a saga.

It was 24.2 pounds in its frozen hamsicle state. I started by defrosting it in the fridge earlier this week, then did some homework (a little too late in the game) and realized that I was about two days short of the needed time to defrost in the fridge (5-7 hours, per lb, if defrosting in the fridge). Don't get me started on the vendor not explaining to customers that delivery dates should allow X days in advance, based on required refrigerator defrosting time which is based on weight. The vendor has been responsive to my question about the lack of information, and the ham was delicious, but what a pain.

So the next alternative to refrigerator defrosting method is to defrost in COLD water, in a waterproof plastic bag, in a big sink you're not using for anything else for oh, about 3 days, or a big cooler you can just handily fill with a yard hose, or a bathtub you’re not using. You have to change the cold water every 30 minutes to avoid any bacterial growth in the Horrible Ham (because as the outer ham layers defrost, faster than the inner layers, they’re more susceptible to bacterial growth as the temperature of the water gets warmer).

I don't know about you, but I have trouble remembering to do ANYTHING every half hour, never mind draining and refilling a huge utility sink (I do realize I'm fortunate to have one) containing a large ham that intimidates me, every 30 minutes for 7-9 hours. So I cheated a little and went with changing the water every 45 minutes. After a few hours into this process – which I tried to think of as a Zen exercise – my work day developed some crises plus I was juggling prep for other brunch items for today. The calculus had begun as to waht dish I could not make and get least criticized for not bringing. I at one point took a work phone call while the sink was refilling.... and, um, forgot to turn off the faucet. About 2 hours later, work crisis finally resolved, I remembered to check on the ham and found myself up to my ankles in water in the utility room. Water had also leaked into the basement to the tune of 3 clean-up buckets & a mop’s worth. (Obviously I don’t have a wet vac, but getting one just zoomed to the top of my Christmas list.)

The crowning glory (should I say, “the glaze on the ham”?) is that it took closer to 3.5 hours to get the ham to 160 degrees F internal temp vs the 2 to 2.5 hours described elsewhere.

The ham was DELICIOUS. The star of the buffet. I did have a hard time looking one of my brothers in the eye, who was storing some cedar planking in my basement that got, um, a little wet. But wood dries out, right? ☺

The moral of the story is... I did not do my homework. I feel a little sulky because it's a very good vendor and there should have been some more detailed information, especially considering the expense of the purchase. Not to mention that I felt embarrassed. I should have known better than not to check the details sooner.

Ah, the holidays. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”
ChezHenry December 20, 2014
Sounds to me like you conquered the Beast!
Pegeen December 20, 2014
p.s. Typo: I meant 140 F internal temp, not 160.
Pegeen December 18, 2014
I'm going to have to email Niman again! Don't want anyone to have unsafe info so thought I'd post this:

I just read that the only safe methods for thawing frozen hams are the refrigerator method or the cold water method. To never defrost ham on the kitchen counter, because the outside of the ham will reach a temperature above 40 degrees F. while the inside is still frozen. The area that reaches a temperature above 40 degrees F. would be susceptible to bacterial growth.

More details here:
Pegeen December 18, 2014
Thanks, ChezHenry. Niman replied to me and recommended defrosting it on the countertop starting immediately for serving on Saturday.
ChezHenry December 18, 2014
I would move it to your refrigerator this morning. That still probably won't be enough time. The benefit you have is that it's cooked and preserved, so if not defrosted on Saturday, you'll be fine taking it out of refrigeration on Saturday to complete defrosting.
Pegeen December 17, 2014
p.s. And keep the ham bone for rice and beans
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