Fresh Ham, Italian Style

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Serves 8 to 10 as a main course

For the Brine:
5 ½ cups kosher salt
6 cups packed light brown sugar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
3/4 cup crushed black peppercorns


For the ham and seasoning:
One 6- to 8-pound bone-in leg of pork (shank end), often called a “fresh ham”
1 cup fresh sage leaves (from about 2 large bunches)
12 garlic cloves
¼ cup fennel pollen or ground toasted fennel seeds
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper


For the glaze:
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons Colman’s dry mustard
2 tablespoons anise seeds


For the brine:

Combine 6 cups water, the salt, and the brown sugar in a large saucepan and heat over high heat, stirring, until the salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from the heat and pour into a large pot. Add the fennel seeds and peppercorns, and set aside to cool.


Using a sharp serrated knife, score a series of parallel lines 1 inch apart in the skin of the ham, about ½ inch deep. Then score another series of parallel lines diagonally across the first cuts to make a diamond pattern.


Add 10 cups cold water to the cooled brine mixture. Submerge the ham in the brine, cover the pot, and refrigerate for 24 hours.


Remove the ham from the brine, rinse and pat it fry. Set it on a platter to air dry for 1 hour.


For the seasoning:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the sage, garlic, fennel pollen, kosher salt, pepper, and olive oil in a food processor and puree. Rub the mixture over the surface of the ham. Place the ham on a rack in a roasting pan, and bake in the oven for 3 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F.


For the glaze:

Combine the brown sugar, cider vinegar, apricot jam, dry mustard, and anise seeds in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Lower the heat and simmer until the glaze is reduced to 1 ½ cups and syrupy. Pour into a bowl and set aside.


When the pork has reached 150 degrees F, brush on a thin layer of the glaze. Continue cooking, brushing with the glaze two more times, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Transfer the pork to a carving board and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before carving and serving.


Recipe courtesy of Molto Batali (ecco 2011)

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