It's been a busy week at our house. Well, I should clarify. LAST week was a very busy week at our house. This week, I have, some days, not even changed out of my pajamas.
Every Christmas Eve, we have an open house for friends and family to stop by, eat a little food and hopefully, have some good company. It's pretty informal and we don't send out invitations. It's all pretty much done by word of mouth. I am sure there a lot of people we miss, but it's usually not intentional.
We have a few regulars - a few that give us the pleasure of their company each year. And we love getting new visitors. We don't really expect anyone to come. We understand that Christmas Eve is a time for families. But we do sure hope that people will stop by. Some years, we have a lot of leftovers, if you know what I mean. Some years, not so much. Either way, we love it!
While we were getting things ready early Monday afternoon, Lobster asked me, "Why do we do this again?"
I told him it's because he likes to show off his ham - wink, wink.
Seriously, though, he really likes to show off his ham.
A lot of time and effort goes into this ham. It had sure better be worth showing off.
It all starts around Thanksgiving. That's when Lobster decides how much ham we're going to "need". This year, he ordered 2 - you didn't read it wrong - two 20 pound hams. He was
paranoid worried that we wouldn't have any left over after the party. Leftovers are good.
Then a few days before Christmas Eve we head to Gartner's Country Meat Market to pick up the prize. This is a raw (green) ham that has been cured in a brine instead of being smoked. If you are a meat lover in the Portland, Oregon area, Gartner's is the place to go. I love looking at all their cuts of meat, in-house sausages, rubs, and sauces they have. They hand out pepperoni sticks or hot dogs to the kids and if it's around the holidays, you need to come early or expect take a number and wait in line.
We usually make a day out of it by heading over to IKEA afterward to pick up lingon berries, mustard, cheese, pickled herring, candy and pepparkaka (crisp ginger cookies).
Lobster was born in Sweden. All of his family is from Sweden and Norway. Yep, I married myself an alien viking. Although he has spent most of his life in the United States, he is very proud of his Scandinavian heritage. In Sweden, Christmas Eve, or Julafton, is when most of the celebrating happens. Family and friends get together for a celebratory feast. A traditional smorgasbord includes ham, pork, fish and plenty of sweets. We have added items that might not be so traditionally Swedish, but it's what we like and it's become traditionally ours.
But, back to the ham.
The ham(s) then take up way too much precious real estate in our refrigerator as we get the other menu items ready for the party. I gripe a lot about how much space it takes up, but it all works out.
The morning of Christmas Eve, Lobster gets up and starts the water to boil in the 42 quart pot. About an hour later, the ham along with white and black peppercorns, whole allspice, and bay leaves go into the pot. The ham then simmers for 5-6 hours, depending on its weight - roughly 20 minutes per pound. Then the ham comes out of the water, gets dried off and rests for a bit.
Lobster then mixes egg whites, mustard, and bread crumbs together and slathers the mixture all over the top of the ham. It then bakes in the oven until nicely browned.
Doesn't that look tasty? My favorite part is a nice chunk of ham with some of the crust on top. Swirl that in some sweet lingon berries and tangy, spicy mustard, and it's a perfect bite.
In tight years, Lobster has asked for his ham as his Christmas present. It's that important to him. One year, we had a rare ice storm and our power was out up until Christmas Eve. Roads were icy and we weren't able to get up to Gartner's for our ham. We ended up serving meatballs, and while they were good, it just didn't feel the same.
Why is food such a big part of our celebrations and traditions? And why can't I leave leftovers alone? I had the same problem with Thanksgiving - where I do well the day of, but then I eat my way through all the extra. It took me all month to lose the weight I gained at Thanksgiving. My goal was to just maintain through the holidays.
I logged a 2.6 pound gain this week. I'm hoping some of it is water gain. I have not drunk nearly enough water this week and entirely too much Diet Coke. My sister gave me a Soda Stream for Christmas, though, so I'm hoping that change will be a positive one as well as saving us some money, honey!
As much as I love Christmas and all the decorations and food, I'm SO looking forward to getting back to normal - and filling my crisper drawer with my salad stuff again instead of everything except the salad stuff. I've missed my salads.
Happy New Year, friends. May this new year bring much more joy and many less pounds!