RJ Balson & Son Irish Bangers from Costco

Sausage and I – we are tight. Best buds. I love adding it to stew, pasta, stuffing, bread, even mixing into burgers and meatloaf – yum! I also love using it to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day – Bangers and Mash style. The last couple of years I have purchased the Irish style bangers from Trader Joe’s. They were good, but not great. So I have had my eyes opened to try other Irish bangers. Costco offered me that chance when I spotted a pack of Irish bangers from RJ Balson & Son.

St. Patrick's Day Costco Guide Review of RJ Balson & Son Irish Bangers
A word about Balson sausage. The company traces its roots all the way back to 1515! John Balson was a meat trader in England. That is just crazy. RJ Balson and Son butcher shop has been in the same location since 1880. Amazing longevity, especially in the ever changing food/grocery landscape. That testifies to the quality of their product, their business sense, and ability to adapt to the changing times. They began producing bangers for the American market in 2007.

Costco Irish Bangers

Now onto the sausage itself. These Irish bangers are superb. Very well seasoned with great flavor. Meaty without an abundance of filler that you find in cheap sausage. Their passion for great meat really shines through in these bangers. You are definitely getting a bang for your buck. A 2 pound package goes for $7.49 at Costco. That works out to $3.74/pound, a steal for sausage of such high quality. Buy up and freeze them for later use. The perfect reason to forget the corned beef this St. Patrick’s Day and make some bangers and mash instead (see my recipe below).

How to Cook RJ Balson & Son Irish Bangers
Since these bangers are fully cooked, all you need to do is heat them up. Browing them in a frying pan will add depth of flavor.

Costco Irish Bangers

Coat the bottom of your pan with oil. Heat up over medium high heat. Once hot add the bangers. Make sure they have room to move around without touching.

Costco Irish Bangers

Rotate the bangers to brown each side. The whole process should take about 8 to 10 minutes. The bangers will have a nice snap to them.

Costco Irish Bangers

Serve your bangers over mashed potatoes for a traditional bangers & mash. Need some suggestions here are a few mashed potatoes recipes.

{Baked} No Peeling Necessary Mashed Potatoes
Bobby Flay’s Mashed Potatoes with Buttermilk
Bobby Flay’s Smoked Paprika Mashed Potatoes
Alton Brown’s Whipped Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Irish Style Bangers & Mash
  • 1 lb RJ Balson & Son Irish Bangers
  • 8 ounces Brussels sprouts, shredded
  • Your favorite mashed potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons cooking oil or bacon fat
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the Mash
  1. Shred the Brussels sprouts in a food processor or with a knife.
  2. Heat up a frying pan over medium high heat. Add oil or bacon fat. Add in the sprouts. Cook the sprouts for a couple minutes to just soften and brown. Remove from heat.
  3. Fold into your favorite mashed potatoes
For the Bangers
  1. Coat the bottom of a frying pan with oil. When hot add the sausages. Brown each side turning regularly for evening browning.. Should take about 8 to 10 minutes to completely brown the sausage.
  2. Serve the sausage right on top of the mashed potatoes.



Costco Boneless Pork Top Loin Chops

I just recently got my first ever Costco membership in part so that I could write more about the popular warehouse store. This month I took a trip there with my oldest daughter. After enjoying a snack of a hot dog and a churro, I walked around the store looking for inspiration as well as some great deals. Then I came upon this sign:

Costco Pork Sale Sign

Save $3 off a package of top loin pork chops sound pretty good to me considered the chops started at $2.79/lb.

Costco Boneless Pork Top Loin Chops

That coupon brought my package down to $10.31 or $2.16/lb. Not bad at all. I picked out the smallest package they had. Often time when something is sold by the pound I end up picking the cheapest choice to help with portion control and to save a little bit of money.

How to Cook Boneless Top Loin Pork Chops from Costco
The first thing to know is that they pork chops are on the lean side. This is because pigs are a lot leaner now then they were fifty years ago (check out this article to learn more about how pigs have gotten leaner). While that might be better for our health, the problem is lean meat tends to dry out real fast without the extra fat. That is why your best bet is to brine. Not only does this flavor the meat, it also leads to more moist meat as long as you don’t overcook it.

Costco Boneless Pork Top Loin Chops

How to Brine
Most important ingredient to a brine is salt – I always use kosher salt for this. Allowing the pork to soak in a salty solution will add flavor to the inside of meat, where as just salting on the surface, only salts the surface of the meat. Your solution must taste salty but it won’t make the meat too salty. For liquid, you can use just water or chicken or vegetable stock. The stock will add more flavor than just water. If you don’t have any on hand or do want to spend the extra money to buy some or time to make your own, you can still have good results with just water. I like to add some whole peppercorns, brown sugar, and whatever other herbs and spices I have on hand to add flavor.

To make the brine, you need to dissolve the salt. Heat up your brine in a pot until the salt is dissolve and add some ice to it or allow it to completely cool before adding to your pork. I like to do this in a gallon sized plastic bag. Poor the liquid in and seal it up. I place in in another container in case the bag leaks. Place it in the fridge for at least 2 hours, no more than 4. Remove and pat dry when you are ready to cook.

Breaded Panko Ramen Pork Chops

How to Cook Them
Two methods that I like is to either bread them or grill them. I have a recipe which I will be sharing soon for breaded pork chops with a Panko/Ramen noodle breading. Super crispy! You can check out this recipe from the blog “An Italian In My Kitchen” for Italian Breaded Pork Chops. Or if you want a good a laugh, you can check out one of my very early posts with a recipe for breaded pork chops. While the post and picture are pretty bad, just learning the ropes at that time, the recipe will still give you a tasty meal.

Now onto the grill option. You can grill them outside on the grill or inside on a nice cast iron grill pan (I like the one Lodge makes). Check out my recipe for Apple Cider Glazed Pork Chops.

Apple Cider Glazed Pork Chops

Apple Cider Glazed Pork Chops

What if I Don’t Want to Brine
If you don’t want to brine your pork chops then I would recommend using them in a slow cooker application or something with a nice gravy. You can still try to use the methods I mentioned above, but it’s so easy for the pork to dry out that I wouldn’t do it. One of my favorite “wet” pork recipes is Tyler Florence’s Smothered Pork Chops. These chops are served with a buttermilk gravy that has a bit of spice to it. This recipe has a special place in my heart as I cooked it for my grandma at her house the last time I saw her alive. This was just when I was beginning to really learn how to cook.


Irish Bangers & Mash

Great dishes are as much about textures as they are about flavor. I will eat something flavored with mushrooms, but give me the mushrooms themselves and I will pass them by. I don’t like their texture. Combining great flavor and complimenting textures is the key to making great food. This is why the dish “bangers & mash” works so well. The meaty texture of the sausage, combined with the soft, creamy potatoes, and add in some lighly cooked greens you got something to really sink your teeth into. With St. Patrick’s Day approaching and finding Irish Style Bangers at Trader Joe’s, I decided to give this dish a try. I was so glad that I did!

The Bangers

Trader Joe's Irish Bangers

I first heard of Bangers & Mash while watching Robert Irvine on Food Network. He has brought the dish out in several shows he has been on. He is British and this is a classic British dish – that I am putting an Irish spin on. I start by using the Irish Style Bangers from Trader’s. They contain 5% rusk. Rusk is a hard, dry biscuit, that is baked twice. Similar to what we would give to a young kid as a teething biscuit. The rusk is ground into crumbs and added to the sausage. The sausage is not heavily spiced, but has a good flavor, and plumbs up nicely when cooked.

For cooking the sausage, I start by cooking them in a little bit of water. Then I brown them on each side when the water is gone. This helps to keep them from burning on the outside before the inside is cooked. I like doing the water first, so the outside of the sausage will be crisp in the end. I want something to bite into.

The Mash
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the Mash, is mashed potatoes. To make this “more Irish” can’t just serve mashers on their own, need to add a little green. Colcannon is mashed potatoes that have cabbage mixed in, Kale is used as well (related post – How to Make Irish Colcannon). Cabbage is great and all, but I prefer the flavor and texture of it’s cousin, the Brussels Sprout. I ran the Brussels Sprouts through my food processor (just like in my Brussels sprouts with bacon recipe). Then pan fried them up, in a little bacon fat for more flavor. Shredded Brussels sprouts hold up a lot better than cabbage in the potatoes. I was glad I only had Brussels sprouts on hand when I made the potatoes.

Baked Mashed Potatoes

You can make the actual potatoes anyway you like, for a easy and flavorful method try my No Peeling Necessary Mashed Potatoes. They are baked potatoes that get the mashed potato treatment in the end.

We Love Bangers & Mash
My wife, my oldest daughter, and me devoured the dish with big smiles on our faces. This was the first time I got my daugther to eat Brussels sprouts! SCORE! Hiding vegetables in mashed potatoes is a great way to introduce your kids to new veggies. They can get use to it, then later you can try to introduce them on their own.

Irish Style Bangers & Mash
  • 1 lb Irish style sausage (bangers)
  • 8 ounces Brussels sprouts, shredded
  • Your favorite mashed potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons cooking oil or bacon fat
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the Mash
  1. Shred the Brussels sprouts in a food processor or with a knife.
  2. Heat up a frying oan over medium high heat. Add oil or bacon fat. Add in the sprouts. Cook the sprouts for a couple mintues to just soften and brown. Remove from heat.
  3. Fold into your favorite mashed potatoes
For the Bangers
  1. Add the sausages to a pan with water covering them about half way up. Bring to a boil. Once the water runs out, brown the sausage on each side. Total cook time should be around 10 to 12 minutes. The sausage will plumb as they cook.
  2. Serve the sausage right on top of the mashed potatoes.



Peach Hatch Glazed Pork

There is nothing like using seasonal ingredients in your cooking. Getting the best of the best at the peak of the season cannot be beat. I recently when peach picking so I had a lot of peaches at my disposal. I did not want to just do sweet dishes, I wanted to try some savory. I made several small batches of jam with my peaches, I saved 1 batch of jam to use as a glaze for pork sirloin cutlets that I picked up at the store.

Choosing the Pork
When people are cooking pork one of the biggest issues having the pork dry out. The solution is to use a thin cut of pork. The pork sirloin cutlets are thinner than your standard pork chop. They are also boneless. The reason I originally picked them out as they were cheaper that day at the store than any of their pork chops.

My Always Brine Pork Policy
I want to make sure that my pork is moist as well as flavorful so I always brine my pork. A simple solution of salt and brown sugar along with black peppercorns and whole mustard seeds will impart a lot of flavor to the pork. Since the cutlets are so thin you only need about 90 minutes of brine time.

Making the Jam/Jelly
I did not want the chunks of peaches in this recipe, so I really made jelly. Yeah you could use some store bought peach jelly but this is a lot more flavorful and more fun! To make the jelly all I did was cut up two cups worth of peaches. I weighed out the peaches on my kitchen scale, then weighed out 3/4th of that total in sugar. I put the sugar in my food processor to make it really fine so it would dissolve quickly, then add the peaches to puree them. I strained the mixture. Then into a frying pan, which I like because I can cook it faster with more surface area available for evaporation. Cook the jelly until it has started to thicken about 6 to 8 minutes. Then it’s ready for this recipe.

Broiled Hatch Chile

Adding Some Heat
The glaze is sweet on it’s own. It needs a big of heat. What better choice than Hatch Chiles (learn more about them in my Hatch Chile Creamed Corn post). They are in season at the same time peaches are. I broiled my chiles until they were starting to shrivel. I remove the skin and seeds before using.

I really loved how all the components for this dish really came together. The brine makes the pork so flavorful, then you have the charred grilled taste which is always welcomed and it’s topped off with a glaze that is sweet with a punch of heat. This is one of my favorite pork dishes I have ever made. I served them up with some Yukon Gold mashed potatoes that I added sauteed kale to.

Peach Glazed Pork Cutlets with Hatch Chiles
For the brine
  • 6 pork sirloin cutlets
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoons whole mustard seeds
For the glaze
  • 2 cups peach jelly
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 Hatch Chile, finely chopped
To brine the pork
  1. Combine the water, brown sugar, kosher salt, peppercorns, and mustard seeds in large pot over high heat.
  2. Stir until all the salt and sugar has been dissolved.
  3. Add enough ice to cool the brine down to fridge temperature.
  4. Place the pork into a gallon sized plastic bag and pour in the brine. Place inside in a bowl just in case the bag leaks and place into the fridge. Soak in the brine for 1½ to 2 hours.
Preparing the glaze
  1. Combine the jelly, vinegar, and salt over medium high heat in a sauce pan. Bring to just a boil. Then add in the Hatch chile, started with about half of it. Taste it and add more if you want more heat.
Grilling the pork
  1. Heat up your grill or put a grill pan on medium high heat. Cook the pork for about 3 mintues per side until nice grill marks have formed.
  2. Finish it by brushing on the glaze. The glaze should be enough for 6 pork cutlets.



There is nothing like a good roast for Christmas. It’s the perfect time of year to heat the house up with delicious smelling food. Problem is some roasts aren’t cheap. As much as I would love to always cook a standing rib roast, I can’t break the bank for one meal. If you find yourself in the same boat, what other options are out there. A whole beef tenderloin is a option, it’s usually on sale this time of year. But what is even cheaper is a pork tenderloin. You should be able to find one for under $4 a pound! And unlike other chunks of meat like the rib roast or a ham, pork tenderloin cook in no time, so they are a good choice if you don’t want to spend too much of your day in the kitchen.

There are many different ways to flavor a pork tenderloin. If I am doing one for Christmas, I am going to look for ingredients that are available this time of year or at least make me think of Christmas:

1. Ginger is associated with the holiday season, despite not really being a seasonal ingredient. It’s on sale in stores and you just might have some on hand if you made some gingerbread cookies. I incorporate it in the marinade and the glaze.

2. Meyer Lemons are in season now. These lemons are sweeter than your average lemon and that pack an amazing taste, perfect for a marinade – just the juice and the zest.

3. Fresh Sage & Rosemary are the only two herbs still standing in my herb garden, everything else has pretty much died or gone dormant. These two will taste and look nice on the outside of the pork.

Christmas Roast Pork Tenderloin w/Honey-Herb Glaze
  • 1 to 1½ pound pork tenderloin, excess fat and silver skin removed
For the marinade
  • ¼ cup vegetable (or chicken stock)
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar (or any kind you like)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
For the glaze
  • ½ cup wildflower honey
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly to combine.
  2. Place the pork tenderloin in a gallon sized plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Place in the bottom of your fridge in a vessel of your choice in case of leaks. Marinade for 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Place the pork on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  5. Insert a probe thermometer into the center of the fattest part of the meat.
  6. Place in the oven and roast until the internal temperature hits 135 degrees.
  7. Remove from the oven. Turn the oven up to 450 degrees.
  8. Apply the glaze (combo of honey, salt, and ground ginger)
  9. Roast until the internal temperature hits 155 degrees.
  10. Remove from oven and allow 5-10 minutes to rest before carving. I like thin slices cut on the bias.



In so many households, the only time you see someone cooking a ham is for a holiday like Christmas or Easter. But ham is good any time of year. Plenty of Americans buy deli ham for their lunches. When they do they spend $5, $6, $7 a pound! You can buy a bone-in ham (I like the shank cut) for under $2 a pound regularly. That is a huge savings. It’s something I am getting in the habit of doing. I cook the ham, eat for 2 dinners in a row. And then freeze the leftovers into individual servings, that I pull out when I need them for a lunch time sandwich. And even greater reward is the ham bone that comes with. This can easily be thrown into a pot of soup (bean or split pea are delicious).

Now that I am cooking a ham more often, I want to have try out some different recipes. I like Alton Brown’s recipe for ham that includes a ginger snap/mustard/brown sugar crust. The downside of that recipe is the crust doesn’t hold up well for leftovers. So I am going to save that recipe for when I have more diners at my house.

This last week I came up with a root beer glaze to rub on the outside of my ham. Instructions are below.

10-14 lb bone-in shank ham
3 cups root beer
1 cinnamon stick
5-7 whole cloves
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground mustard

I like to use the method Alton Brown uses. It involves slowly heating the ham up at 250 degrees and removing the outer skin to apply the glaze directly to the meat. The outer skin is removed after the ham reaches 135 degrees (usually in about 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours). To make it easy to remove, use a paring knife
or clean utility knife to score the ham from top to bottom in a diamond like pattern. Then stick your probe thermometer into the deepest part of the meat without hitting bone. Cover in heavy duty aluminum foil and bake in a roasting pan at 250 until the temperature is 135.

To make the glaze
While your ham is cooking, you can prepare the glaze. Start by placing all the ingredients into a sauce pan and bringing to a boil. Then let sit for 30 minutes to steep the cinnamon stick and cloves. Then remove the cinnamon and cloves. Bring back to a boil. Stir often until the liquid has reduced quite a bit and is the consistency of a syrup. The time it takes depends on the weather and your stove. Anticipate over a half hour at least. Make sure to keep your eye on it, so it doesn’t burn. There is a moment when it’s done and then moment it’s burned. When finisihed set aside until ham is ready.

To add glaze to ham
Pull the ham from the oven when it has reached 135 degrees. Remove the foil & probe. Turn the oven up to 350. Pull off the outer skin of the ham. Then using a pastry brush, brush the glaze over the ham, trying to cover as much area as you can. Then put back in the oven uncovered for 30-60 minutes, until you get a nice caramelized color on the outside of the ham. Be watchful so that you don’t burn it the glaze you worked so hard on. Let the ham rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.


When I am shopping for bacon there are a couple words that I really like to see – uncured and center cut. Uncured means that no sodium nitrates or nitrates were added when making the bacon. I like center cut bacon because it has less fat content than bacon that isn’t center cut. Now add two more words to the equation, and you have me even more excited – Niman Ranch and maple. Niman Ranch has some of the best quality meat you can buy. And the addition of maple brings a nice sweet note to bacon’s saltiness.

I purchased some Niman Ranch Uncured Center Cut Maple Bacon from Nino Salvaggio in Clinton Township. This bacon was amazing. It had a great texture and didn’t shrink up so bad as cheap quality bacon. The maple syrup added to the bacon made the bacon even more wonderful. There is some of the best bacon that I have ever purchased.

For more bacon goodness check out my review of Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Bacon and my tips for shopping for bacon.


I have been working at an apple orchard this fall. One of the benefits of this job is that I have access to picking any fruit that I want to that has already fallen off the tree. One day after picking some Stanley Plums, I went back and picked 1 peck off the ground. I wanted to find some use for them that went beyond what everyone thinks of (such as jam). So I did some searching and found a recipe for Bobby Flay recipe for Spicy Plum Chicken Thighs. I made a few changes to the recipe and gave it a try. I was very happy the way it turned out. It had a BBQ sauce type flavor, but it a plum kind of way. I had a lot of leftover sauce. I decided that this sauce might be good on pork tenderloin. And I was right. Below you will find out how I did it.

My Version of Bobby’s Plum Sauce Recipe
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small chopped onion
4 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pounds plum (I used Stanley), pits removed and chopped
1/4 cup honey (go for a medium to strong flavored honey)
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh is best)
1 tablespoon sugar

In a large saucepan, add some olive oil, then your onion and garlic. They need to be chopped before adding. Cook them until they are soft. Then add the remaining ingredients. Continue cooking until the plums have soften. Then place mixture into a food processor and mix until the mixture is smooth. Your sauce is then ready to go. You will have more sauce then you need for one pork tenderloin, so you will be able to freeze the leftover.

To make the Pork Tenderloin
I like to brine my pork. It makes the pork, juicy and flavorful throughout. I like to give the pork a soak in some vegetable broth, some kosher salt, and brown sugar for at least a couple hours. Or you can simply just combine some water, salt, and sugar. Just make sure your brine is cool before adding to the pork and only brine it inside the fridge.

I like to sear my tenderloin before putting it in the oven to finish. I bring a cast iron grill pan to medium high heat. Then start the tenderloin at the top of the pan and as each side brown, roll it down towards the bottom of the pan. When finished remove from the pan and place in a baking dish big enough to fit your tenderloin.

I like to use a silicone pastry brush to wipe my sauce onto the tenderloin. I pour a bit of the sauce into a separate bowl first, as I don’t want to contaminate the entire batch. I then place a probe thermometer into the center of the pork and place into a 400 degree oven. The recommend internal temperature for pork is 145 degrees. There will still be a little pink right in the middle and if that is a turn off to you, then go up to 160. How long it will take depends on the size your tenderloin and how well your oven maintains it’s temperature. That is why it’s best to trust in the thermometer.

I brush some more sauce onto the tenderloin when I remove it from the oven. Then I let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.


Honey Mustard Glazed Pork The other day I got the Niman Ranch Cookbook from my local library. I was looking at the recipes, when I spotted one for cider-glazed pork chops and thought that would be a great fall meal. I then was looking for something to make for dinner on this summer night, I remembered I had pork chops in the fridge. So I thought, why not try out a different glaze on some pork chops. So after reading a few recipes, I created this recipe for honey-mustard glazed pork chops.

Whenever I cook pork with a dry heat method I always brine it first. This makes the interior of the meat both juicy and flavorful. The brine is basically the same one that Alton Brown used on an episode of Good Eats to make a slow cooked pork dish. It is also the same brine I use when making a pork loin roast.

Ingredients for the Brine

4 bone-in pork chops

2 cups vegetable broth

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns

Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan over high heat. Cook until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Then remove from the heat and add about 1 pound of ice to cool the brine down. Give it a good stir and set it aside. Now take your chops and place them in a gallon sized plastic bag and dump the brine into the bag. Seal the bag well, place it in a container just in case the bag leaks, and place it into the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Even just an hour will make a difference.

Ingredients for the Glaze
olive oil or canola oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup chicken broth or stock

Start by placing about an inch or so of canola or olive oil (not extra virgin) in the bottom of an electric skillet (or you can use a skillet on the stovetop). I turn my electric skillet to 300 degrees (about medium high on the stovetop). In the mean time, remove the chops from the brine and pat them dry. Season them with black pepper and kosher salt. When your skillet is ready, place them in, so that they do not touch each other. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the chops are golden brown, then flip and cook for another 4-5 minutes until the other side is brown. Remove the chops from the skillet.

Now add your chicken broth and scrap anything that stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then add the honey, mustard, and cider vinegar. Stir constantly until your glaze is nice and thick, should only take a minute or two. Return the chops to the pan and coat them in the glaze. Then enjoy! If you have leftovers eat them within 1 days as pork does not last long in the fridge after being cooked.


Alton Brown’s City Ham

Ham – that popular chunk of pig that adorns many a holiday table, whether it’s Easter or Christmas. But not every ham has been created equally. The first thing you need to know about ham is where it comes from. Ham comes from the backside of the pig, hence it’s round shape. Just as on a cow, that area can be quite tough if not cooked properly. Cooking ham is a slow process that begins before you even purchase it. Salt and smoke are used to turn tough pig butt into something truly delicious.

A lot of what I know about ham comes from Alton Brown. In his episode “Ham I Am”, he explains the different types of ham. Every ham falls into one of two categories, country ham or city ham.

Country Ham
These hams are rubbed with a dry mix and let to hang dry for months. This process produces a complex flavor. The ham has to be soaked in water before you cook it. Country ham may not be easy to find. I have looked in a few stores in my area, and have not found a single one. So you will most likely have to turn to city ham for your Easter meal.

City Ham
(Click here to read my review of Alton Brown’s recipe for a city ham)
Instead of a dry mix, a sweet brine is used when this ham is cooked and smoked. This is what you will find on sale this week at your local mega mart. City ham can further be divided up into 4 groups. Check your label to find which one yours falls into.

Ham Description
Ham No water added to it and contains at least 20% protein
Ham in natural juices The protein level is no less than around 18%
Ham (water added) It contains 10% added water and a protein level at least at 17%.

If it says “ham and water product”, then you want to run as far away as you can from that ham. This means they can add as much water as they want and it can be boneless. The problem with a completely boneless ham like this is that something has to be holding it together without a bone. And whatever chemical is being used, your body probably would be better off without it. Also without the bone you are losing flavor to your ham and also the opportunity to use the bone in a soup later.

When speaking of city hams, I must bring up the sprial sliced hams. They are simply a city ham that has been pre-sliced. This is for your convenience. Any spiral ham I have had before has been dry. Cooking it pre-sliced like that, makes it really easy to dry out the meat. Skip the convenience (and pocket the difference) and the spiral ham, and slice it up yourself. An electric knife works wonders.

What is the Difference Between a Shank End and a Butt End?
One other category to consider when ham shopping is unless you are buying an entire ham and most supermarkets only sell half a ham, then you need to know whether you want a butt or shank end ham? The butt end is what is sounds like, that half of ham comes from the top part of the ham cut, closer to the tail of the pig. The shank end is the end that is closer to the hoof. There is a lot of debate over which ham is better. Alton Brown choose a shank end and I did too for my Easter dinner. It seems to me that the shank end is easier to crave than the butt end. Some butchers believe the butt end has better flavor. And others argue back that it contains more fat and gristle. The decision is up to you.

What I Use When I Bake A Ham
Here are some tools that I use whenever I am baking a ham.
1. Roasting Pan – You need something big to bake your ham in and a roasting pan is the perfect vessel. I don’t recommend not stick in this case as I always find that I still end up with burnt sugar in the bottom from my glaze. It’s harder to clean a non-stick pan without scratching it and ruining the non stick. So just go with an stainless steel that you can scrub easier.
2. Electric Knife – Makes carving the ham a whole lot easier. You don’t need something expense here. A cheap one works just fine.
3. Probe thermometer – Even thought hams come cooked most of the time, you still need to heat it up. Don’t trust the instructions that came with your hand, trust a probe thermometer to get your ham reheated to the properly temperature. I have had ham that has been overcooked, a dry ham is not something you ever want to experience.

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I'm Eric. I live in Ann Arbor, MI with my wife, 3 kids, and a flock of ducks. I love grocery shopping, trying new fruits, farmer's market, and traveling.

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