I’ve spent most of this month feeling bad about the election results, but today as I sat around eating chicken tacos and drinking my traditional Diet Coke and rum (yeah, it’s more of a This Is Us tradition than a traditional tradition, but it makes me happy), I realized things, in my house, aren’t so bad. I started looking through photos and, using them, I made a little list. Turns out, my list isn’t all that little.
I’m thankful for Luci, who can laugh with me over the stupidest stuff, like the fact that I never know where to look when I’m taking a selfie.
And Dee, who’s been my friend for 34 years. If there’s a way a friendship can be tested, we’ve been through it, and we’ve come out the other side. So many of my memories aren’t memories without her, and I’m all the better for it.
And for the girls who sat at the lunch table together in the age of Michael Jackson, Ratt and Duran Duran. We’re scattered all over the country and our children clearly can’t take a decent photo of us, but if I ever had to bury a body, these ladies would all help me find the best price on lime and a shovel.
And for Luci’s jackass children, who do things like this when they’re supposed to be taking good photos of middle aged ladies.
Seriously, though, I love these girls. And also, I really, really can’t take a selfie.
I never understood the old friends/new friends/gold/silver thing, but if I couldn’t have my lunch table buddies with me, I’d throw these two in in a heartbeat. No, not the mime/clown. The two hot ladies. One’s Greek and one’s old Florida; that corpse will never be found. They also lift me up, support me, check in on me when they somehow know I need it… I’m fortunate they’re in my life.
And, of course, these two. I’m thankful we live in a country where they no longer need to hide their love. They got married this year, and while, at one time, I wasn’t a fan of marriage, knowing their lives are forever linked makes me happier than you can possibly imagine.
One of the reasons forever doesn’t scare me anymore is this guy. How could it when he loves my dog so much? There’s more, but it’s private. Just know he’s the best thing that ever happened to me and I’ll never be the same after falling in love with him.
And this little creature. She goes to work with me every day, curls up next to me every night and I can’t remember a time when she didn’t exist.
Not only did I write a book, I found a publisher and this year it hit bookstore shelves. These women have done everything in their power to make it a success (as did the woman taking the picture, who, obviously, isn’t pictured).
Seriously, I have a book. I’ve wanted this since I was nine years old. Do you have any idea how great it felt to hold my copy of it for the very first time?
And, of course, these people. They’re only part of the team at Creative Loafing who make me laugh and make me think and, above all, make me smile.
So, yeah, I’m concerned about the future. I’m freaked the hell out by the president-elect and his more hateful supporters. But right now, I’m focusing on gratitude, and, in that case, my cup runneth over.
The book will have a cover and pages and a spine and everything. We fancy around here…
Maybe this should be over on my Great Florida Road Trip site, but this isn’t really a post about the book. Well, OK, it kind of is.
My publisher sent me the press kit for Backroads of Paradise and it’s finally hitting me that this book will happen. I mean, yes, I’ve had a contract for a long time but it feels as though it has taken forever.
I have an ISBN number, a press kit, a book launch party, and several book things lined up for the coming months.
This started when I was in fifth grade and decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Fifth grade, happened in 1982. It’s 2016. It’s taken 34 years, a couple of writing jobs along the way, and a book contract, but I finally feel like a “real” writer.
And now a word from our “shameless plug” department: You can help me feel like a successful writer by buying my book here.
No, she’s not a coon dog, but she still paid her respects.
It’s been a long few months and I’m not about to apologize for not posting. Instead of posting, I’ve put the final (I mean it this time) on my travel narrative about Florida’s backroads, due out from the University Press of Florida in October, and I started working at Creative Loafing, editing the Arts & Entertainment section.
I’ve kept busy, OK? But I miss writing (I always come back to it) and our most recent road trip reminded me that posting on Facebook doesn’t tell the whole story. And so I’ll jump right in without further apology, except to say this post is more flexing a muscle than making a grand point.
We went to Louisville this week and roamed around. On our last day — the day we checked out of the hotel in Indiana, which was a weird thing where I accidentally reserved a hotel on the Indiana side of the Ohio River (it’s too many states, OK? I can’t be expected to keep them all straight) — we debated a few options: Check out the Jim Beam distillery, head to Mammoth Caves, or take the long way through Alabama. Bonus with Option Number Three: The Coon Dog Cemetery.
I’ll give you three guesses which option we took.
I will never regret not going to a distillery, and I’m not sure, after a gas stop at the exit by the national park and all its carnie glory, I’ll regret not seeing the caves. I am, however, so glad we took a lengthy detour through northwest Alabama to see this cemetery.
We don’t road trip like a lot of people, I know. We drove through pouring rain, way, way, way off the beaten path, not sure what to expect. Finally, we found the cemetery — about eight miles off the main(ish) road and on the edge of a hill, tiny gravestones — some makeshift, some clearly done professionally — marking the final resting place of people’s trusted companions.
I’m not much for burying dead humans, but this place touched me. You have to prove your dog was a coon hound — and papers don’t suffice, someone associated with the cemetery has to attest to the breed — and they will not bend on this. The Coon Dog Cemetery sits on the edge of a hill, with a picnic shelter, guest book, and a spring. What a perfect place to bring your best friend for their final rest. The raw emotion on th
e headstones, even when the only emotion came from a weathered collar looped around a cross crudely fashioned from pieces of rough wood, overcame me.
I spent the whole of our time there crying, the kind of crying you do because something makes you sad (why do dogs have to die, anyway?) but also feels good. It was a catharsis, because along with all the good things that have happened over the past few months, some things have been tough. Now’s not the place to discuss what those were, or why. The point is, our visit here reminded me that it’s OK to cry and be sad and I don’t have to keep pushing forward all the time, I can stop and reflect and if I collapse into tears the world won’t end and things will push ever on.
And here’s the point of the post: I want to talk (OK, rant, really) about the South and how people like to make fun. I’m sure at least one of you rolled your eyes at the idea of a cemetery for a specific breed of dog.
There’s some debate as to whether Kentucky is part of the South. Well, not for me, because, um, no, but for others. It’s pretty (because apparently places other than the South can be pretty) but it isn’t the South. Cave Hill Cemetery, the final resting place of Colonel Sanders (not a real colonel, by the way), has a Union cemetery and a smaller… area… for Confederate veterans.
The South proper, though, gets made fun of — a lot. It has a tough history, because for some, it’s the only time America lost a war (I guess we still count Vietnam as a draw, eh?) and that’s kind of embarrassing for us. How can we be an awesome superpower if we lost a war? Slavery didn’t help, either, because what legacy that leaves the South is a black population historically disenfranchised and still trying to catch up. And, of course, we have a different terrain, different food, and we talk funny.
That’s OK. Life is different down here — in the Deep South and Florida. We all talk funny, unless we’re from Somewhere Else. We do have different terrain, and also, humidity. It changes how you look at life. I can’t explain it, but it does. We move slower; it’s hard to get excited when it’s 95º in April and awful damn moist out there to boot. We have a connectedness to the land (or the sea) you don’t see in, say, Indiana. That’s no disrespect to Indiana, but please, until you’ve been wholly and completely at the mercy of a hurricane or watched the sun break over the Everglades, you don’t get us.
And then we have to deal with you making fun of us. We’re funny, right? We eat grits, Florida has all these weird-ass criminals, you’ll see rebel flags flying and what the hell does that “Forget, hell!” bumper sticker mean, anyway? We’re backwards bigots, right? Just a bunch of Southern assholes who all vote for Donald Trump and aren’t smart enough to fight our way out of a paper bag.
None of these things are true of every Southerner or every Floridian. But I will grant you this: We live life different down here. You don’t get it. That’s cool. We’re a bit off. I get that. What you may not realize is that the South was settled by a different sort of European. I could get all history on you about how different European migrations found different parts of America, and I could tell you to read David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed, which details in beautiful, excruciatingly exacting language, why the South is different than, say, Pennsylvania, and why it has hunting dogs and Pennsylvania has Quakers (I know, I know, people in Pennsylvania have hunting dogs, but it isn’t quite the same, now, is it?)… but I won’t. The least you need to know is this: Like the rest of America, Southerners are not like everyone else. Southerners are flawed and exquisite people, and they have their own cultural history.
And that history is why Southerners have a coon dog cemetery. So you can make all the jokes you want, but until you can understand the beauty of a special cemetery for their (sometimes) hunting dogs, you don’t get the South. #EndRant
So, Grand Theft Auto (I believe the kids today call it GTA) 5 came with El Cap’s PlayStation 4, and today he decided to unwrap it and give it a shot.
It occurs to me that we are perhaps not the demographic Rockstar Games has in mind, but it’s their own fault for packaging the game for free with the PS4, especially when PS4 sells the really cool games, like Crimes and Punishments: Sherlock Holmes. Nevertheless, here we are, on our big comfy couch, me with my blog and El Cap with the controller.
The thing is, video games are still a new invention in El Cap’s world, and not less so in mine. I would be perfectly happy if I could have my Atari 5200 and Sega Genesis, and if any of you want to really make my Christmas, I would love an old table-top pizzeria Ms. Pac Man or an arcade Frogger. In fifth grade, my parents bought me an Atari and two things happened: My handwriting improved immeasurably (that’s a thing, y’all) and I fell in love with video games.
El Cap grew up before video games, and since adulthood has busied himself climbing various corporate ladders and doing really cool things he’ll almost never talk about with strangers (and so he’d be really pissed if I mentioned them here) instead of wasting precious hours on Sonic the Hedgehog and things like that. Now that he’s a boat captain with real days off, and now that our kitchen is almost done, he has time for things like kayaking and camping and video games.
I tell you all this so you can more full appreciate what is happening here right now.
After getting past the setup – PS4 controllers are a lot more complex than either Atari or Sega controllers – there’s the process of learning how to move around in the game.
Here’s a pro tip, Sony: The people with the money to buy your game systems? We all need glasses. Telling us what button to press in three-point type doesn’t help us. Seriously. We have a huge television and neither of us could read the instructions. We do, however, have Google, so as soon as we determine what the things are called (Hint: Not “joysticks” ) we then determine which buttons are which.
That’s when I realize you don’t really know someone until you put a video game in their hand. I fully expected El Cap would never open a game called “Grand Theft Auto”, much less want to play it after seeing the storyline. He enjoys shooting people (Cops! He’s shooting COPS, people! How is this the man I know?) way too much.
El Cap: *giggling*
El Cap: I wanted that guy to stay down, so I shot him a few more times.
Me: That guy – the one you shot in the balls – he’s a cop?
El Cap: *smiles* He kept moving.
Of course, there’s a learning curve. It took 20 minutes to make the first kill (much of which was me asking him to let me try and me killing my partner), and if you’d been walking by our window you would have heard things like:
El Cap: Can you read that? I can’t read that.
Me: Don’t worry, honey, you’ll get better at killing people.
El Cap: I didn’t fire! The gun just went off!
That one was my favorite.
We are officially The Olds.
Good morning from Gulfport, Florida!
Fun facts about opossum:
- Virginia opossum, or the common opossum, are not the same things as possum. Opossum are the only pouched mammal, also called a marsupial, in the United States.
- A female opossum can give birth to a litter as large as 20, but only half of them tend to live.
- The opossum has the shortest gestation of any mammal: 12 1/2 days (I guess the half really matters when it’s that short).
- When born, the entire litter can fit into a teaspoon.
- Opossum eat enough ticks to impact the tick population.
- They do not take kindly to getting picked up with a paper towel.
- They are super-cute, even when you find one in your bedroom while your cat stares at it with confusion.
So this happened.
Every morning El Cap and I take the hellhounds for walk. If we aren’t clever enough to remember to feed the cats before we leave, they follow us. This is a problem because while some of our neighbors think it’s “cute” that we walk our cats, problems arise when Scuppers thinks we’ve strayed too far from home. He does not like to cross the Tangerine Greenway and he does not care for Tomlinson Park, so if we head in either of those directions, he starts to scream. He’s not a quiet cat. People notice. It’s embarrassing.
So this morning, when he chose to stay home, I didn’t think too hard about it (I was barely nose-down into my first cup of coffee, so I really didn’t think too hard about anything) when only Elmo, our somewhat quieter but not altogether bright cat, came along for the walk. It was only after we arrived home, fed both the dogs, and El Cap walked back to the bedroom did we realize why Scuppers stayed home.
Apparently Scuppers had brought a tiny opossum into the house – this is the third one in the past month – and we didn’t have the decency to be there when he did, so he waited with it. Of course, opossum being opossum, the creature fainted (playing opossum), which must have befuddled Scuppers, because after we came home and fed the dogs, El Cap walked into the bedroom, where he found a perplexed cat staring at a tiny marsupial, not quite sure why it wasn’t moving.
To give you an idea of the scale, that’s a paper towel El Cap’s using to protect himself from opossum diseases. And while it may look like this little guy is stretching out his hand in a friendly greeting, I think perhaps he was trying to slap us. He did not seem pleased.
I can’t blame him. Mornings are tough on lots of people.
This is what happens on Facebook when I’m tired. And covering a city council meeting for the Gabber. I don’t believe I’m anomaly. Which means this is what happens while news is getting made, y’all.
Me: Packed cookies in glitter boxes. Didn’t brush off before sitting down to type; keyboard covered in glitter. It looks like a stripper’s keyboard.
My Friend Jay: It’s also gonna die; glitter’s conductive.
Me: Not much I can do about it now. However, two things: One, Stripper’s Keyboard sounds like either a great band name or a fantastic sink for diving, and two… well hell, I lost two. I need coffee…
Me: Three? It’s some sort of commentary on my writing.
Me: Also, four? I gave out cookies in glittery boxes last night and I sent Mayor Henderson home covered in silver glitter for his anniversary. Laura’s likely going to wonder. But then not really, because, well, Gulfport. We kind of have glitter everywhere. Which should be our motto.
ordan the goat? He’s seen some things. What things, no one’s quite sure, because Gordan isn’t talking. Among things Gordan’s owner, Eric Finkler, would like to know is how, exactly, Gordan found his way into a St. Pete Beach bar.
Friday night, July 25, Gordan became the target of an aborted goat-napping on Gulfport Beach. Finkler, who lives at the foot of 49th Street, had finished working on his motorcycle and wanted to check out its performance. Finkler left Gordan, a nine-month-old African Pygmy goat, in his van down by the beach. He left Gordan with a bucket of hay, a bucket of feed, and water. He rolled down the windows and hooked Gordan up to a long leash.
Gordan suffers from separation anxiety, Finkler says. When Finkler left, Gordan started to cry. Goat cries sound not unlike human baby cries, and Gulfport Police began receiving calls from concerned Gulfportians.
Officers say they assessed the goat’s circumstances and determined Gordan faced no imminent danger. Officers on shift Friday night took turns checking on Gordan to monitor his well-being.
Finkler did not realize this. He returned to the van after a ride over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and back, spent some time with Gordan, and decided to take another ride. He returned to his van shortly after 10:15, moments after police looked in on Gordan.
Gordan was gone.
“Somebody came along and thought they were going to be a hero – or they thought they were going to be cute,”he says.
The next morning, Finkler spray-painted a plea for Gordan’s return on his van.
“Please return my friend Gordan the Goat!”he wrote. On the rear, Finkler spray-painted his contact information. He parked the van in front of Stella’s in Gulfport.
While Finkler fretted over Gordan, Gordan had embarked on an adventure of his own. While no one knows the details, Gordan found his way across the Corey Causeway and into Riptides, a Blind Pass bar. The bartender brought him to a family member the next day. By then, Finkler’s van had garnered some attention, and five hours after Finkler plastered his message on his van, a woman called him.
“I think I have your goat,” she said. By Saturday night, Finkler and Gordan were once again under the same roof.
As for the van? While it’s possible anyone else finding a goat may mistakenly call Finkler, he says he had plans to replace the van before Gordan’s goat-napping.
“The van was an easy sacrifice to make for Gordan,” he says.
Right now, Gulfport code prohibits livestock (Section 5-12.1), except for hens, which were granted an exception in 2009. Florida Statute 585.01(13) defines livestock; in its definition, it includes goats “raised for private use of commercial purposes.” Finkler says he expects the legality of goats to come before council in the near future.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@icloud.com.
This article originally appeared in the Gabber Newspaper.
I have mentioned before that I am not a huge sweet eater, but one thing I can tolerate—and tolerate well, if done properly—is cheesecake. Plain cheesecake, that is. Not cookie dough cheesecake, not banana split cheesecake, not chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake or any other such batshit—just a decent vanilla cheesecake with a simple fruit topping not mired down in a goopy gelatin syrup. A great cheesecake, to my mind, has a clean, just mildly sweet dairy taste that is not cluttered up with other extraneous flavors.
Probably the most well-known cheesecake is the one created by the original Lindy’s deli in New York City, which opened in 1921. Lindy’s cheesecake was so famous, it attracted the likes of Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan, Phil Silvers, Walter Winchell, Damon Runyon and Elizabeth Taylor on a regular basis and was actually immortalized in the 1950 Broadway musical, Guys and Dolls. Lindy’s cheesecake still remains the yardstick against how other cheesecakes are measured, almost 100 years after its debut.
What made Lindy’s cheesecake different was the sugar cookie dough crust and the use of both orange and lemon rind in the batter. My own cheesecake remains relatively true to the Lindy’s recipe, although I have lowered the sugar a bit from the original recipe and made some procedural changes I think result in a smoother, denser cake. My favorite change, however, is pulsing the rinds into a portion of the sugar first to release the oils and bring out a more intense citrus flavor (a trick you can use for any recipe that calls for citrus rind and sugar, but be warned: for cake batters, only pulse the citrus into a portion of the total amount of sugar called for. The extra moisture released by the rind can throw off the chemistry of a recipe; by using only of a portion of the sugar, the moisture balance is changed only minimally).
We love strawberry topping, but you can adapt the topping recipe for almost any fruit: just switch out the strawberries and strawberry jam for blueberries and blueberry jam, cherries and cherry jam, etc.
Best if made the day before serving.
1 tsp. freshly grated lemon peel
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup organic butter, softened
1 large organic egg yolk, whisked
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a small food processor, pulse the sugar and the lemon peel together until the citrus is finely ground and has released its oils into the sugar.
Place the lemon sugar, flour and sea salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Make a well in the center of the sugar-flour mixture and add the butter, egg and vanilla. With your hands, combine the ingredients together quickly until well-blended. Form into a ball and chill for 15 minutes.
Press the dough uniformly into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake for approximately 5-7 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove and let cool.
Increase oven temperature to 500°F.
2-1/2 lbs. organic cream cheese
1-2/3 cups granulated sugar, divided
1-1/2 tsp. freshly grated orange peel
1-1/2 tsp. freshly grated lemon peel
2 large organic egg yolks
1/4 cup organic heavy cream
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Cut the cream cheese into chunks and place in the bowl of a standing mixer. Let soften for approximately 45 minutes.
Place 1/2 cup of the sugar in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse the sugar, the orange peel and the lemon peel together until the citrus is finely ground and has released its oils into the sugar. Mix the pulverized sugar into the remaining sugar and add to the cream cheese.
Put the eggs and egg yolks into a 2-cup glass measuring cup and beat with a fork to combine. Add the heavy cream, vanilla extract and sea salt; beat until combined. Set aside.
Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until fluffy and well-blended, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixture running on low speed, add half of the egg and cream mixture in a slow, steady stream. Stop the mixer and scrape sides and bottom of bowl again. Add the other half of the egg and cream mixture in a slow, steady stream with the mixer on low speed. Stop mixer and scrape bowl one last time. Increase speed to medium and beat the batter until well-blended, about 1 minute.
Remove bowl and use a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl and ensure the mixture is well-blended. Pour batter into springform pan with baked crust. Spray a length of aluminum foil large enough to cover the pan with nonstick cooking spray; lay over the top of the springform pan, sprayed side down, taking care that the foil does not touch the batter.
Bake at 500°F for 10 minutes; without opening oven door, reduce oven temperature to 200°F and bake for another 1-1/2 hours. Remove foil; transfer cheesecake to a wire rack and cool 5 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of pan. Cool until just barely warm, about 3 hours, then wrap the cheesecake tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving, preferably overnight.
To unmold cheesecake, remove side of springform pan, then slide a thin metal spatula between the cake and the pan bottom to loosen; slide cheesecake onto serving platter. For clean slices, cut into wedges with a sharp knife dipped in hot water. Serve with Strawberry Topping. Refrigerate leftovers.
(1) 16-oz. pkg. frozen organic strawberries
1/2 cup organic strawberry jam
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Toss berries, sugar and salt in medium bowl; let stand until berries are defrosted and sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally.
Heat jam in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in lemon juice; pour warm liquid over macerated strawberries and stir to combine. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
So, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s web site has an Ask a Geologist section, of which I took full advantage while researching a factoid about beach erosion for a talk I’m giving on the history of Key West this week.
The great thing? Real, live geologists answer your question.
The horrible thing? Real, live geologists answer your question.
A million years or go (give or take), a college professor taught me about erosion and how the state’s barrier islands were building up on one side of the state as they eroded on the other. This is, of course, without human alterations such as beach renourishment and seawalls.
I cannot remember on which side of the state the sands erode as new barrier islands tend to want to develop on the other side. Does this make sense?
How Science answered me:
The only constant in nature is change and barrier islands and beaches are no acceptation. The barrier islands and beaches of Florida are constantly evolving in reaction both to the actions of man and to natural events. The changes they undergo generally occur rather gradually over the time span of a person’s life. These natural responses, both accretion and erosion, are typically only noticed by the public when they occur as localized dramatic change due to exceptional events, within a person’s life time, such as hurricane landfalls and extreme northeasters. Those events are not however exceptional when viewed over the span of geologic time.
Sand is in continual movement on the beaches of Florida. In the main, with some notable exceptions, sand on the beaches and in the waters immediately adjacent to the beaches of the east coast of Florida move southward. Barrier islands on the east coast of Florida classically tend to accrete on the north side of inlets. The flip side of the coin is that they tend to erode on the south side of inlets. Barrier islands also tend to move landward in response to sea level rise through, among other mechanisms, storm event over wash. The following link is to the most recent beach critical erosion report.
Man’s efforts have caused both erosion and accretion to occur where such would not naturally happen. Take a look in Google Earth at the inlets of the east coast of Florida. Those that have been extensively modified by man tend to exhibit distinct landward offset on their south side. This is due to the groins placed on the north side of inlets blocking the passage of sediment into ebb tidal deltas. Ebb tidal deltas are the lobe of sand bars on the seaward side of inlets created by tidal flushing. The inlet offsets are further exacerbated by the dredging of and disposal of sand from ebb tidal deltas to maintain navigation channels. Nature would have otherwise moved that sand out of the delta onto the beaches of islands further south of inlets. We maintain navigational channels across ebb tidal deltas and nature continues to fill in the holes we create thus interrupting the nature southward progressing of sand.
I think it is totally awesome I have access to this man’s brain… now, if I only could make sense of how he answered. Still, well done, FDEP. Mostly.
As is usual in our household several weeks after Easter, Grillmaster D requested I make a ham for Sunday dinner last weekend. That might seem odd, given that ham is a traditional Easter dish and most households wouldn’t consider making two ham dinners so close together; however, I am not the one who typically hosts Easter and Grillmaster D seldom cares for any baked ham dish other than “my wife’s ham.”
Just like the Princess, who sticks her little nose up at anything but “Mommy sketties” and “Nona (her Italian grandmother) sketties” (the sole exception being the Spaghetti Di Bologna served by the culinarily formidable Pia Goff at Pia’s Trattoria here in Gulfport). Life with two discriminating eaters is certainly interesting at times.
Back to the pig. It occurred to me as I was making it that ham is a problematic dish for many people, chiefly because of the tendency to overcook it and dry it out. Most recipes direct you to toss your ham in the oven and blast it at 350°F for a while, but therein lies the problem: that is far too rough of a treatment for a piece of meat that is already fully cooked and does much better with a bit more TLC.
One of the best ways to keep a ham from drying out is to cook it (heat it, really) in an oven bag at a much lower temperature. You only crank the temperature up at glaze and coating time, to give the outside a nice gooey caramelized finish. Treated gently, a ham will pretty much look after itself.
I found a recipe some years ago for a simple ruby port and cherry glaze that was all right, but that I ultimately found kind of flat. I added some spicy mustard and a pinch of cloves to punch up the flavor, which was the perfect remedy, in addition to a brown sugar and mustard coating that brought everything together wonderfully. The finished product is juicy and tender, with a great caramelized glaze and beautiful presentation.
1 bone-in half ham (7 to 10 pounds)
1/2 cup organic black cherry preserves
1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon organic stone-ground spicy brown mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch freshly ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon dry yellow mustard powder
Adjust oven rack to the lowest position and heat oven to 300°F. Unwrap the ham and remove the plastic disk covering the bone. Place ham in a large oven bag and gather so the bag fits tightly all around the ham. Place ham cut side down in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the ham comfortably. Secure the bag with the provided tie (you may cut off the excess if you like) and cut four slits in the top of the bag.
Bake the ham until the center registers 100°F on an instant-read thermometer, 1-1/2 to 3 hours (approximately 20 minutes per pound).
While ham is baking, make the glaze: simmer the ruby port in a small saucepan over medium heat until it is reduced to two tablespoons. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar is fully dissolved and the glaze is thick and syrupy (about 10 minutes). Remove from the heat and set aside.
Make the coating: mix the brown sugar and the dry mustard powder in a small bowl until fully combined.
Remove the ham from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Cut open the oven bag and very carefully lift the ham to pull it free, letting the juice run into the pan. Discard the oven bag. Pour or brush half of the glaze over the ham, then pat the coating mixture all over the exposed surface. Return the ham to the oven until the sugar melts and the glaze becomes very sticky and caramelized, about 15 minutes.
Remove the ham from the oven a final time. Pour the remaining glaze over the ham. Tent loosely with foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Transfer the ham to a cutting board; cut into thick slices and serve.