The Christmas Ham

Last Christmas my idea of BBQ was throwing some frozen hamburger patties on a propane grill and cooking them until they were gray. In the past 12 months, a lot has changed. Mikey Kay introduced me to the world of BBQ. I bought a beat up Weber Kettle, I slowly learned how to work with charcoal and I became somewhat proficient at grilling. However, Mikey's continued passion for the art spread to me and while I could not BBQ in any way I appreciated it and had the desire to.

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About a month ago, everything changed. I found out that while I was hosting a Christmas Day party for my in-laws I was also expected to have a ham for them. Typically for them, this was a purchased Honey-Baked Ham that was just heated in the oven. Now, on my turf and with me in control, I wanted to push that further. Given my utter lack of BBQ skill and my poor excuse for a Weber, I began looking for a more creative way of preparing this ham. One night, I sent Mikey a sarcastic text saying 'Too bad my Kettle is crap and I have no skill cause I have to cook a ham for Christmas.'

Unexpectedly, this text unleashed the instructor and ambassador for BBQ in Mikey. In no time he was convincing me that I could BBQ and he would help me. I was still hesitant. This was the same issue I always had with BBQ. What if I screw it up? But now, the stakes were higher. It wasn't my kids that would be annoyed with a crappy meal, this was Christmas dinner for the in-laws.

After hours of research and some persuasion from Mikey, I committed to the idea. I bought an 11 lb. spiral-cut ham and set out on my journey. Mikey loaned me supplies, first his PK Grill to compensate for my lack of a proper grill, then an iGrill thermometer. Upon meeting with him, he was prepared for my amateur mistakes and handed me a MeatChurch Honey BBQ rub, and a blend of maple and cherry wood to use. After some instruction from the master, I was as prepared as I could be.

Christmas morning came quickly. I woke up before the kids waiting to see what Santa delivered and got to work. Set my ham out, rubbed it and set it aside. Then, following Mikey's instruction set out a couple rows or charcoal and lit my half-full chimney. Soon I was pouring the hot coals in the PK and letting it warm up. Watching the temp from the iGrill, it started hot! Up to about 310. I quickly closed the dampers a bit more and let it settle in. It was still hot, but I got it down finally to 250. I put the wood on the coals and soon saw the beautiful white smoke. It was time for the ham.

This was the hiccup I wasn't prepared for. All of my research and prep had me planning to set the ham on its end. As I brought the ham out and set it on the grates I realized it was too tall for the PK and I could not close it. Quickly I improvised by turning it on its side having no idea what if any effect that will have. This worked with one problem, the spiral cut began to separate and I had pieces of meat falling off the edge. I ran in the house found some kabob skewers and ran back to the grill quickly pinning the bottom pieces on with the skewers. I was content with this. Now I set, the threshold alerts on the iGrill, just in time for the kids to start ripping open presents. About an hour in, the temp which started hot kept rising. Now it was up to 270.

Closing the dampers, even more, I finally got the temp to drop a little. The cook continued for the duration. I added coals once to keep it going and finally my ham hit temp and just in time. Everyone had arrived, the twice smoked potatoes I threw on the Weber were just about ready. I opened the PK and brushed on a honey bourbon glaze I had simmering. I let it cook for another 10 minutes and brought the ham in. 

Those are the logistics, but there is plenty of magic in this story too. The magic was setting the ham out and then watching and listening to the family enjoy it. Typically I could really care less if people enjoy the food at a party or not. But this was more than food, it was a labor of passion. I put myself into that cook. Watching my kids enjoy it and comment was amazing. Hell, hearing the crazy not really related aunt and uncle comment on the food was great. It was the perfect Christmas gift for myself. Sure, it wasn't easy. Sure there was the one-off relative who ate a ton of my ham yet could not bring herself to not bitch about how much she prefers Honey-Baked ham. But it was all worth it. It was my creation, and it was amazing. I could pour myself a well-spiked egg nog complete with Moonshine Cherries and sit back watching everyone enjoy my work. 

I learned a lot this year. I learned what BBQ really is. And I say that meaning far more than just cooking slow vs. grilling. BBQ is an art. It is a passion. The practice of it is far more than cooking a meal. It is an experience that is unlike any other!


This blog is written by Pipes.