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If ham will be gracing your holiday table, this one’s for you.

Michelle Darrisaw

Here in the South we love our baked ham. So it’s only fair to highlight just what makes Easter’s most popular centerpiece a family favorite: the glaze.

For most, a glistening baked ham just isn’t ham without the glaze, which is often used to master the delicate balance between sweet and savory. But instead of basting it with the sugary glaze packet that comes with most hams, we rely on one ingredient to accentuate the smoky flavor of ham. At first, it may sound a bit unusual, but we can assure you this Southern favorite will elevate your holiday ham to memorable status and send your taste buds on an adventure. If you haven’t guessed by now, we’re talking about the classic combination of ham and Coca-Cola.

Not only does Cola impart a sweet flavor to this main dish, but it’s also a delicious way to honor the South, since the iconic soft drink was originally created in Atlanta, Georgia. Beyond it being the soda beverage of choice for most Southerners, it also makes an amazing pan sauce and marries perfectly with other ingredients such as brown sugar, cinnamon, Dijon mustard to make a rich glaze. We love how its syrupy base enhances the flavor and acidity of ham and makes it more tender.  

Whether you opt for bone-in, a shank end portion, picnic, or fully-cooked spiral ham, you can really “taste the feeling” of a Cola-based glaze. In addition to the soda infusing and penetrating between each delicious slice, we like to dredge the slices back to allow each layer to soak in the pan drippings for added tang and piquancy. This caramelized Cola glaze recipe offers a sweet take on a holiday staple.

Regardless of the recipe and technique used, baking a ham around the holidays is a satisfying time saver that lends itself to delicious leftovers and new meals. It doesn’t get much more old-fashioned and Southern than that.