Baked Country Ham

Baked country ham is the centerpiece of a proper holiday meal in many parts of the South—and an enormous culinary achievement. But fear not, we’ve got a recipe that will get you the applause you deserve.

A baked country ham on an oval platter with a knife resting beside it.

Though this baked country ham is nowhere near as salty as an uncooked, unsoaked country ham, it’s still a good idea to have on hand some great relishes, such as watermelon rind or fig preserves or a few pickled peaches, to help take the edge off.

What to drink: A perfectly baked country ham, scented with clove and bracingly salty, is an ideal excuse for serving the South’s greatest wine, made from native Scuppernong grapes. Resist the urge to drink bone-dry wines on this occasion and seek out off-dry varieties made by Duplin Winery in Rose Hill, North Carolina, and lrvin-House Vineyards on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina.–Matt Lee and Ted Lee

LC A Ham In Every Pot Note

“A baked country ham recipe takes some time to prepare,” caution authors Matt Lee and Ted Lee in the introduction to this recipe. “But it’s not complicated and it’s well worth the effort.” Well, there you have it. In the spirit of learning, we thought we’d share their other thoughts on what sort of ham to specify and any special equipment that’s necessary, too, so here goes: “Before you begin, make sure you have a boiling pot big enough to accommodate the ham. Most cooks arrange for their butcher to cut off the narrow hock end of the ham to make the ham fit better; we prefer to let the hock protrude a few inches above the surface of the water. As long as the meaty majority of the bulb-shaped ham is submerged, you’re in good shape. We’ve found small, 8-pound country hams that fit nicely, hock and all, in an 8-gallon boiling pot.” All that’s missing from this salty, porky goodness with the crackly brown sugar glaze is maraschino cherries. Or not.

☞ Contents

Baked Country Ham

A baked country ham on an oval platter with a knife resting beside it.
The flavor of this gorgeous ham is powerfully porky, deliciously robust, minerally, and deep, and it's perfectly complemented by the cinnamon and cloves in glaze.

Prep 15 mins
Cook 3 hrs
Total 3 hrs 15 mins
6 to 8 servings
195 kcal
5 / 7 votes
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  • One (8- to 11-pound) country ham
  • 10 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 24 whole cloves
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar


  • Place the ham under warm running water and scrape any surface mold, seasonings, cobwebs, [Editor’s Note: Um, ew!] or any other matter from the ham with a stiff brush. Place the ham in an 8-gallon stock pot and fill it with enough water to cover the ham. Let the ham soak for 24 hours, changing the water as often as possible, ideally once every 6 hours.
  • Change the water a final time and transfer the pot to a stovetop. Add the bay leaves, mustard seeds, and vinegar and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 2 hours, topping with fresh water as necessary.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  • Remove the ham from the stock pot and turn off the heat. When the ham is cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to shave off the skin (but not the fat) from the ham. Score the surface of the ham—meaning fat and any exposed flesh—in a diagonal pattern. Place a single clove in the center of each scored diamond. Pat the ham thoroughly on all sides with the brown sugar.
  • Place the ham on a rack in a 9-by-13-inch roasting pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the fat has crisped and the sugar has melted into a nice glaze. Let the ham rest on the rack for 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and carve.
Print RecipeBuy the The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook cookbook

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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 195kcal (10%)Carbohydrates: 41g (14%)Protein: 1g (2%)Fat: 2g (3%)Saturated Fat: 0.2g (1%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.01gSodium: 28mg (1%)Potassium: 205mg (6%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 36g (40%)Vitamin A: 18IUVitamin C: 0.3mgCalcium: 75mg (8%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

The ham was very tasty with a nice sweet taste. I also liked the addition of the mustard seeds and the bay leaves. I would recommend using some parchment paper to line the roasting tray so that the excess sugar glaze can be thrown into the bin afterward without damaging the tray. I saved the boiling stock and froze it for use in other dishes.

Originally published December 19, 2009


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  1. 5 stars
    This was our first time trying a country ham recipe instead of a spiral ham for the holidays. I have to say the ham turned out absolutely delicious and beautiful. My husband and myself had fun in the kitchen together working as a team to prepare and cook this fabulous ham. Great recipe we would recommend it to all family and friends!

  2. My Grandfather prepared a smoke cured country ham every Christmas. Paper thin slices of smoky, salty ham, the salt cut by the sweetened glaze, is a holiday on a bone, anytime! My only question is, why do we say we BAKE a ham, but ROAST most other meats?

    1. Technically a smoked cured ham is fully cooked, so you just bake it to being it back to temperature and set the glaze. By contrast, roasting a turkey (which is technically still baking it lol) involves cooking the actually meat and browning the surfaces to a delicious golden brown Yum 🙂 In other words, it’s like how every square is a rectangle but every rectangle isn’t a square, you can bake a turkey or a ham but you can only roast the turkey.

      1. Many thanks for the response, Casey. Exactly. And yes, the beauty of a baked ham is there’s no tension over when exactly it will be safe for guests to consume. It’s just a matter of warming the ham to a pleasing temperature. And as say, technically roasting is baking so it’s sorta all the same. A matter of semantics.

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