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Like the majority of holidays, the feast is where the fun is. If you have been designated the role of cook, or if you are helping out with meal planning, it may be a bit nerve-wracking to try and think of all the different side dishes that you can serve with the main focus, easter ham. Thankfully, I have enough suggestions so that you can have your dinner table looking like a dwarven feast in no time.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is Easter Ham?
- 2 What is an Easter Dinner?
- 3 Other Types of Ham
- 4 How to Cook Easter Ham
- 5 What to Serve as Easter Side Dishes
- 5.1 1. Mashed Potatoes
- 5.2 2. Scalloped Potatoes
- 5.3 3. Roasted Asparagus
- 5.4 4. Sweet Potato Casserole
- 5.5 5.Honey Glazed Carrots/Roasted Carrots
- 5.6 6. Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- 5.7 7. Green Beans
- 5.8 8. Honey Glazed Parsnips
- 5.9 9. Pasta Salad
- 5.10 10. Baked Beans
- 5.11 11. Potato Salad
- 5.12 12. Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- 5.13 13. Corn Pudding
- 5.14 14. Creamed Spinach
- 6 Easter Desserts
- 7 FAQs on Easter Ham
What is Easter Ham?
The simplest definition of ham is that it is the hind leg of pork, but a traditional Easter ham is a bit more complicated. Ham can be prepared in a number of ways such as salt-cured, brine-cured, smoked, air-dried, aged, and cooked. All of these preparation methods have their merits and all will give you a delicious cut of ham, yet for the most traditional Easter ham you will want to find one that has been cured with brine, smoked, and then fully cooked.
The name for a ham that has been cured, smoked, and cooked before being sold is a ‘city ham‘. This ham is the most widely available ham in the US and is only specifically referred to as city ham when there is a country alternative. The difference between the two is that a country ham has been dry-cured and stored at room temperature, which means it is not cooked.
Easter ham has already been cooked so that is a huge weight off your shoulders, all that you need to do is warm it up and serve it. While warming it up, you can choose to glaze your ham with honey, maple syrup, or any other appropriate glazes.
Shopping for the right ham is often the hardest part of preparing your Easter dinner, but if you have a local butcher and know what to ask for then you should be fine. While you can ask them for an Easter ham specifically, they might give you something you did not quite expect. The choice is yours but ham can come from two different cuts of meat known as the ‘butt half’ and the ‘shank half’. The main differentiating factor between these two is that the butt half is very tender and flavorsome, yet it often contains part of the hip bone. This is not an issue if you are experienced, but some people struggle to carve around it. The shank half is completely bone-free and easier to carve, however, the muscles here got a significant amount of exercise so the meat is tougher and chewier.
To get the perfect Easter ham, ask your butcher for a brine-cured, smoked, and fully cooked cut of ham. If you have a preference over where it is cut from, also ask that it is either part of the butt half or shank half.
What is an Easter Dinner?
Easter dinner, or lunch, is a large-scale meal that is cooked and eaten in celebration of the holiday Easter. While some people may be huge fans of the holiday, and others may not care, one thing that unites everyone is our love for food. No matter if you celebrate the holiday for its religious meaning or for any other reason, an Easter feast is sure to be enjoyed.
The dinner mostly consists of a large cut of meat, typically ham, with a spread of various sides and drinks. The amount of food heavily depends on how many guests are attending, but having the feast centered around a holiday makes it the perfect excuse to invite family and friends over for a chance to go all out with your cooking.
Other Types of Ham
Ham is incredibly popular as it is, but it can also come in different forms. There are more processed types of ham that come in plastic packaging with the sole purpose of being used for sandwiches and bagels. There are also deli meat variants of ham that have been smoked differently or cured but still have the purpose of being a sandwich filler.
Butchers and delis will always sell lots of different types of ham. You can buy it in large cuts or you can opt to buy slices instead. The slices can vary from being very thin to almost an inch thick. A popular type of deli ham is honey-baked ham with breadcrumbs. If cut into thin slices, the breadcrumbs will be on the outer edge only and add a great texture and flavor to the meat.
How to Cook Easter Ham
If your ham is already smoked or cured then there is a high chance it is pre-cooked. This means that all you have to do is heat it up, but fear not as this is not like your Saturday night leftovers, ham is perfectly fine to reheat after buying it from the butchers.
There is a general rule of thumb that each pound of ham takes 10-15 minutes of cooking time at 350 degrees F. If you have a meat thermometer or anything that can measure the internal temperature of your ham then you will want to attach that to the thickest part of your ham and cook it until there is an internal temperature of 135-140 degrees.
To help with cooking times you can let the ham sit until it reaches room temperature before being placed in the oven. Other than this, there is very little you can do to speed up the process. To actually heat your ham up you will want to place it in a roasting pan or something that can accommodate the ham while still being oven-safe. Place the ham cut side down and optionally add 1/4 cup of water to the pan. This is not needed entirely, but some people swear by it. It cannot hurt to try so the choice is yours. Other than this, you can also brush your ham with meat drippings or glaze it with honey. For a half ham, this should take around 2 hours but can take anywhere up to 4 1/2 hours for a full ham.
What to Serve as Easter Side Dishes
If you are trying to think of dishes to side with your ham dinner then you might be struggling to come up with anything. The best way to know what to pair with a dish is to understand that the whole point of side dishes is to either balance out the meal nutritionally or bring variety to the tastes and textures of the entire feast.
The easiest way to do this is to look at what your typical holiday meal is centered around, which in this case is ham, and see what nutrients and flavors are missing. Ham is very high in protein so there is little need for too much more of that, so potato dishes or other vegetables would work well. Savory ham glazed with honey provides a lot of sweet and savory flavors, so to contrast this, side dishes with sour or earthy flavors would work well.
Despite the main dish being meat, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have one or two side dishes of other meats just to accommodate any guests who may not like ham and would prefer either chicken or lamb instead.
1. Mashed Potatoes
Arguably one of the most popular side dishes, mashed potatoes add a creamy luxurious texture while not being too overpowering when it comes to flavor. You can add extra cream, garlic, and other fresh herbs to this to make it even more flavorsome but still not too overwhelming. Mashed potatoes have a lot of fiber and starch in them which is great for filling you up if you aren’t already full.
This dish works well with the natural potato flavors but can instead be made cheesy if you want to. For an extra option, you can substitute the potatoes for swede instead which is more fibrous and tastes sweeter.
2. Scalloped Potatoes
While containing mostly the same nutrients as mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes have a wildly different texture. Also known as dauphinoise potatoes or potatoes au gratin, this is a type of casserole dish that consists of sliced potatoes being mixed with a creamy sauce, onion, mustard, nutmeg, and lots of cheese. The dish is baked until the top layer is crispy and forms a crust that adds a nice variety in texture. Cream cheese can be used in this recipe and a dash of olive oil on the top will never be a bad idea.
Regardless of the dish looking complicated and time-consuming, it is actually very simple. If you own a mandoline then this dish can be made even faster as you will not spend all your time peeling and slicing potatoes. A knife can easily be used but for slicing potatoes a mandoline is best.
3. Roasted Asparagus
Being the first green vegetable on the list, roasted asparagus is an amazing side dish for any occasion. The dish is so easy to make as all you need at the minimum is a tray, washed asparagus, and a bit of salt. Use olive oil to make sure they do not stick and roast them until they are crispy but still green.
If this is not enough flavor for you, then you can transform this already amazing side dish into something truly spectacular with only a few ingredients. Add some garlic and a light creamy hollandaise sauce for a more luxurious flavor, or wrap the lower part of asparagus in prosciutto ham for a salty and addictive snack.
4. Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potatoes are a great alternative to standard potatoes as they offer so much more flavor. As you can tell by their name, the flavor is sweet which is such a nice bonus when you start using them in the same ways you would use normal potatoes. Make them creamy and top them off with some sea salt for added flavor.
5.Honey Glazed Carrots/Roasted Carrots
On its own, this might seem a bit tame and dull. However, if you roast some carrots and glaze them with honey then you are onto a winner. Carrots are high in fiber and vitamin C which makes them pair perfectly with ham dinners. Simply place them in a roasting tray and brush them with honey. Make sure to olive oil the bottom of the tray first so they do not stick.
Do not worry about pairing these with your glazed ham, it won’t be too much glaze at all. Despite both being glazed, they still make a perfect match and will have your taste buds dancing with excitement.
6. Roasted Brussels Sprouts
A very earthy and hearty pairing for your salty ham, Brussels sprouts are a great side dish that requires no complex flavoring. Instead of smothering them in sauce or specially cooking them with different ingredients to flavor them, Brussels sprouts can be cooked and enjoyed as they are. Crack some salt and black pepper over them if you must but there is no need to mess with what is already a great flavor. Not to mention, Brussels sprouts are also insanely healthy and will balance this meal perfectly.
7. Green Beans
Green beans, also known as runner beans, are a very healthy and delicious pairing for any meal. They go with basically any dish you can think of without looking out of place. There are so many ways that you can prepare and cook green beans and it can be hard to choose. They can be steamed and salted for a more minimalistic approach, or you can go crazy and use them in a casserole with mushroom soup and french onion.
8. Honey Glazed Parsnips
If you liked the idea of glazing your carrots with honey, then you may want to consider using parsnips instead or alongside your carrots. The dish is essentially the same with the obvious substitution of parsnips instead of carrots. This does not change the dish too much but the parsnips have a more earthy flavor that contrasts the honey a lot more. If you really can’t decide which to cook then there is no reason to choose at all, cut up an equal amount of carrots and parsnips, and roast them together while glazing them with honey. The best of both worlds.
9. Pasta Salad
While it is typically paired with a lighter meal, a pasta salad adds enough variety to the feast for someone who does not want to eat too much. The pasta salad focuses more on the salad than the pasta which ends up with it being a very nutritious side dish. The pasta is boiled and cooked properly, and then salted before being tossed with chopped vegetables such as red onion, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and sweetcorn. Black olives can be added as well and a salad dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, or sour cream is more than welcome.
10. Baked Beans
Baked beans have a lot of protein in them, similar to the ham, but they are still so delicious that they need to appear on this list. They are warm, hearty, and filled with umami flavors that are sure to put a smile on your face. While they are perfectly fine on their own, you can go the extra mile and top them off with grated cheddar cheese which is sure to put an exciting twist on them.
11. Potato Salad
While it is more commonly eaten during the summer months as a light side dish, potato salad is so much more than a veggie side. Potato salad is made up of halved new potatoes with chopped vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, and red onion. The dish doesn’t stop there as diced hard-boiled eggs are then added alongside sour cream and salad dressings. This can be eaten by the spoonful or served on sourdough bread.
12. Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Swapping out the normal potatoes for sweet ones can really make roasted potatoes shine. Some people dislike roasted potatoes as only the outside is flavored and the inside seems bland, using sweet potatoes is a great way to counter this as not only do you get the crunchy delicious crust but you also get the inside of the potato to be flavored and delicious. They can be brushed with goose fat before roasting for a super delicious result.
13. Corn Pudding
While this may seem weird to come, corn pudding is a holiday classic for a lot of people. It is more common in the southern states of the US but can be enjoyed everywhere. The dish consists of butter, sugar, eggs, sour cream, cornbread, milk, whole kernel corn, and cream-style corn being mixed together and baked until it resembles a cake. Despite looking like a cake ready for frosting, corn pudding is perfectly fine to be paired with most dinners and brings a sweet creamy texture with it. Some people may not like it, but for others, it is comfort food and a holiday essential.
14. Creamed Spinach
Spinach is full of nutrients and potassium which makes it a very healthy side dish. While spinach is delicious on its own, mixing it with a creamy sauce will result in a delicious and nutritious side dish fit for anyone. The dish is made by mixing butter, onions, flour, milk, single cream or heavy cream, nutmeg, and spinach together.
While you may be satisfied with the main feast and all of the side dishes that came with it, there is never anything wrong with serving dessert. Your guests may be a bit full so this might have to come a few hours post-meal, yet it will still be delicious and everyone will love it. Desserts are great for being sweet treats with a bit of complexity for everyone to enjoy.
Hot Cross Buns
Hot cross buns are one of the most popular foods around easter time thanks to their relation to the holiday. They are a delicious treat that can be eaten as a dessert, breakfast, or lunch. They are very similar to a brioche bun and will oftentimes have raisins in them. It is best to cut them in half and either toast or grill them until they are toasted, after this, you can either spread butter on them or a bit of fruit jam to give it a tart kick. Hot cross buns can also come in sweeter versions such as having chocolate chips in them instead of raisins.
There is no debate when it comes to brownies, they are hands down one of the best desserts ever and will be seen as such for the foreseeable future. With that said, they pair great with an easter feast as they can be enjoyed both warm and cold. This means you can cook them with the rest of your meal and then people can either eat them straight after while they are still warm, or they can enjoy them later on when they are at room temperature.
Brownies can also be turned very festive if you garnish them with colored chocolates and confectionaries to make a bright topping. Mini chocolate eggs make especially great toppings as they look so festive and fitting for such an occasion.
Similar to brownies, cookies can be enjoyed both when they are fresh and when they are a few hours old. Cookies are always adored by guests and are not too filling so guests can eat some of them to enjoy a sweet treat without bloating themselves and feeling fatigued. Cookies can also come in many different flavors which adds more variety to the meal as a whole, even if you only decide to have two or three different flavors.
Yogurt parfait is a perfect light dessert for anyone who is full but wants something a little extra to satisfy their palette. Greek yogurt works best here as it is slightly bitter but also really healthy. However, any yogurt can be used. The rest of the dessert consists of granola and fresh fruit which makes for an insanely tasty treat that is still light and easy to eat even after a meal.
FAQs on Easter Ham
What do you eat with fresh ham?
Fresh ham can be eaten with basically anything that you want to eat with it. However, the high protein and salty flavor of the ham pairs brilliantly with veggies and potatoes.