Ham with Guava Glaze

Our Christmas Day tradition includes a gift for the cook (me!): no cooking all day. Our celebration meal has migrated to Christmas Eve, so for Christmas Day we have cold meats, salads, breads, pickles and cheese prepared in advance to be nibbled on at a leisurely pace through the day. This year the centerpiece was a guava-glazed ham.

Last year we brought home a commercially prepared honey sweet ham, which was wonderful but pretty pricey. This year I wanted to try baking a bone-in ham at home — something I’ve never done before. (We definitely wanted that bone, of course, to make a soup later! )

The idea of making a guava-flavored glaze has been percolating in my brain for a while, the result of picking up a tub of guava puree at the supermarket last fall. A fellow shopper saw me pondering the tub and volunteered several ideas for how to use the paste — all of which involved pastries or other sweets. I asked if she ever used the paste in a savory dish and she said no. Hmmmm, that sounded like a challenge…

Guava is an aromatic fruit, with a green or yellow rind and seedy pink or white pulp. It is one of my favorite fruit flavors, and was always one of the syrup flavors I usually chose for shave ice or pancakes when we lived in Hawaii (sigh). We also used to find tiny strawberry guavas in early summer on one of our favorite hikes through Oahu. Surely it’s this yearning for tropical breezes and warmth as our area has been deluged with rain and snow and more rain for the last couple of months that spurred this idea to coat a large pork product in tropical guava sweetness!

And it works! We actually tried the glaze first with a pork loin roast — it was lovely, but the tangy sweet glaze really needed meat with some fat to highlight it. Next we tried wild salmon filets, brushing the glaze on the top of the filet at the last minute. That was better — the acidic sweetness cut through, then melted into the rich oils of the fish. But the ham was by far the best showcase for this fruity basting sauce.

Guava paste is a dense concentrated fruit puree, sweetened with cane sugar but not as sweet or loose as a jam or jelly. It is thick enough to be sliced or diced and has an incredibly intense guava flavor (at least the Goya brand does). Look for it in shelf-stable tubs or tins (21 oz) or vacuum packed squares ( XX oz) in markets specializing in Latin American foods, or in supermarket aisles (non-refrigerated) designated for products from the Caribbean or Latin America.


Guava Basting Sauce:
Enough for one 10 lb. ham + 4 salmon filets or a 4 lb. pork roast

1 tub (21oz/590g) guava paste
1/4 cup/60ml water
1/2 cup/120ml white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 TBL dijon-style mustard

Cut guava paste into 8 -10 rough pieces and add to 2 qt/L saucepan with water, and warm over medium heat. As paste begins to melt, stir well to loosen with water. Add vinegar, salt and mustard, and stir well. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the vinegar smell is no longer acrid but blends with the fruit. Cool, and keep refrigerated until needed. Makes about 3 cups Basting Sauce.

To Finish the Ham:
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
2 bay leaves
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced in 1/2” rounds
1 9.5lb (4.3kg) ham with bone or larger
2 cups/ 470ml water
2 cups/470ml Guava Basting Sauce, above
(optional) 2 TBL rum, tequila or bourbon

Calculate total baking time for the ham to reach an internal temperature of 160F. We used a smoked ham with a bone that required 17-20 minutes of baking for every pound. It was a 9.5 lb. ham, so we were looking at a total time of about 2 hours and 40 minutes to 3 hours. But don’t rely just on this approximate baking time — it is important to use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the ham to take its temperature and make certain it reaches the critical temperature of 160F to ensure it is fully cooked.

(9.5lb ham) x (17-20 minutes/lb) = 160 min (2hrs 40min.) to 190 min (3hrs. 10min)

Place onion, carrot and bay leaves in a roasting pan just large enough to accommodate the ham joint with the thick end down.

If desired, add rum, tequila or bourbon to Basting Sauce and warm in microwave or over low heat on the stove. Reserve half of Sauce to serve with ham.

Rinse and pat dry ham. Score fat around the joint. Place ham, cut side down over onions, cover with wax paper or parchment, then with foil. Put roasting pan in the lower middle of the oven, and heat oven to 375F. Roast ham (unglazed) for 40 minutes.

Turn heat down to 325F. Remove ham from oven and take off foil (keep foil to tent ham again while it rests). Baste ham all over with remaining Guava Sauce, and return pan to oven for 20 minutes. Baste again and return to oven. Repeat every 20 minutes until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the ham reaches an internal temperature of 160F. About 40 minutes before your calculated ending time, start checking the ham’s temperature when you baste to gauge how the baking is proceeding and adjust as necessary.

Once proper internal temperature is reached, take pan from oven, and loosely cover ham with foil again. Allow ham to rest for 20 minutes before removing joint for slicing.

Remove meat from bone and freeze bone for soup later.

We had this for breakfast with beet-pickled eggs and breads, and later for dinner with mashed sweet potatoes, extra Guava Sauce, slow-cooked collard greens and corn bread.

To Use Guava Sauce with Pork Loin Roast:

1 cup/240ml Guava Basting Sauce, above
2 TBL. white wine, water, rum or tequila

Combine Sauce and liquid, and warm in microwave or over low heat. Reserve 1/2 cup for serving.

Pre-heat oven to 400F.

Score fat around roast, and rub in sea salt and pepper.

In large skillet, heat oil just to smoking point, then add roast with fat side down. Brown well on all sides.

Lay roast in oiled oven-safe pan just large enough to hold the roast. Baste with guava glaze and place in the middle rack in oven. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn oven temperature down to 350F.

Remove roast, and baste again. Return to oven, and repeat basting every 15 minutes until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the roast reaches an internal temperature of 170F (about 20-30 min/lb.) — for our 3.5lb. roast, this took about 1 hr. and 45 min. total roasting time.

Cover roast and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

We enjoyed this with long grain rice topped with seasoned garbanzo beans (Goya brand preseasoned) and fresh cilantro. Reserved Sauce on the side.