Every Easter, families share meals with either ham or lamb as the
And like turkey at Thanksgiving, it may be the only time of year that home cooks make them.
But outdoor smoking expert Jeff Phillips of Sapulpa has ways of cooking them that might just make your family ask for them time and again.
Although grocery store hams are already cured, you would be surprised how much difference smoking makes to the taste of a regular ham, he said. The same thing goes for lamb, which has always been more popular in other parts of the country.
Phillips started his online forum and newsletter as a hobby several years ago. The forum now has 36,000 members, and 140,000 people from around the world subscribe to his newsletter.
"I have an active member in Africa now, and I also have them in New Zealand and Canada. It has been very far-reaching," Phillips said of the interest in the site.
Next month, his book, "Smoking Meat: The Essential Guide to Real Barbecue," will be released at all major bookstores.
But the newsletter is especially timely and includes recipes for holiday foods.
If you don't already smoke meats, Easter is a good time to try it. Ham only takes about two to three hours, he said, less time than other meats.
"It is already cooked, so you are not working with the safety factor of making sure that it is done," Phillips said. "You are just trying to get it warm."
As far as the other popular Easter meat, lamb is "one of those things where you either love it or you don't. It can have a real strong flavor."
He likes to smoke lamb chops or a rack of lamb, which take about three hours to bring to medium rare or 140 degrees.
Most importantly, Phillips tries to keep the information he provides on the site simple, because his audience is the amateur cook.
"I try to use the same small equipment that everyone else does. I really want to help the guys at home who are not going to have the big trailers for competitive grilling," Phillips said.
To get started smoking, cooks should make sure they have a meat thermometer.
And be prepared to cook low and slow.
To read more about Phillips' smoking technique and recipes, go to tulsaworld.com/smokingmeat.
Jeff Phillips provided his recipes for smoked ham, lamb and a potato side dish.
SMOKED RACK OF LAMB
1/2 gallon buttermilk
1/2 gallon water
1 cup kosher or sea salt
2-3 racks of lamb
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or spray olive oil
1/4 cup barbecue rub
1. In a large plastic or glass container stir together buttermilk, water and salt until the salt is dissolved.
2. Place the lamb in a 2-gallon Ziploc bag or in a shallow glass baking dish. Pour the buttermilk brine over the lamb to cover the meat. Close the bag or cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours.
3. Preheat a charcoal, gas or electric smoker to 200-225 degrees using pecan, hickory or apple wood chips or chunks for smoke. You can also mix all three together for a very nice blend. Rinse lamb under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Spray or brush on a light coating of olive oil to help the rub adhere to the meat. Sprinkle the barbecue rub onto the meat until you can just barely see the meat. (Coat without caking.)
4. Place racks of lamb on the smoker, bone-side down. Smoke to medium rare (135-140 degrees). Let rest for 5 minutes; cut into individual chops and serve immediately.
HERB PASTE FOR LAMB
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Press the garlic cloves into a small bowl or jar. Add all the chopped fresh herbs. Top off with olive oil and stir just to combine. Add salt and stir again. Add more salt to taste if desired.
SPICED BABY POTATOES
1 pound small new potatoes (unpeeled)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove crushed garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons black cumin seeds
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)
1. Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, put in the potatoes, and boil for about 5 minutes. Drain.
2. Heat the oil in a metal roasting pan on top of the stove over medium heat; add the garlic, turmeric, coriander and cumin seeds, and cook for about 1 minute. Add the potatoes, rolling them around to coat. Sprinkle with the sugar and a little salt and pepper.
3. Place in a 350 degree oven and bake for about 30 minutes, turning them occasionally. Just before serving, sprinkle with the parsley and chives.
DOUBLE SMOKED HAM
1 large ham, cured and precooked (bone-in or boneless)
2-3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1/4 cup barbecue rub
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (optional)
1. Preheat a charcoal, gas or electric smoker to 225-240 degrees using hickory, pecan or oak chips or chunks for smoke.
2. Apply a very light coating of mustard all over the ham. Sprinkle the rub all over the ham and massage into the meat with your hands.
3. Place ham on smoker grate and smoke for 3 hours.
Optional: Brush barbecue sauce onto the meat in the last 30 minutes of cooking time. Slice and serve.
Why do we eat ham at Easter?
Historically, pigs were slaughtered in the fall. As there was no refrigeration, the fresh pork that wasn't consumed during the winter months before Lent was cured for spring. The curing process took a long time, and the first hams were ready around Easter.
A ham is a pork cut that's taken from a hog's upper hind leg. There are three types of American hams: city hams, country hams and fresh hams.
City hams are the most common. They're soaked in or injected with brine and then boiled or smoked. Many cooks prefer country hams, which are dry-cured and then smoked and aged for added flavor. Fresh hams aren't cured and need to be cooked.
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