How Fortified Wine Can Take Your Ham To The Next Level

You've probably noticed that most baked ham recipes include a glazing step to add taste, color, and texture to the outside of the cured pork. A good glazed ham recipe (like our bourbon-packed glazed ham) will include both sweet and savory flavors to balance the salty nature of the meat, and there's often an ingredient added for a boost of umami, like toasty bourbon or molasses. One ingredient you might be missing out on that can really enhance roasted ham is a fortified wine — for example, port, Madeira, or Marsala.

Fortified wines are high-proof and made of wine that has had another spirit added, like brandy or eau-de-vie, and then often aged in wooden barrels. If the spirit is added when the wine has not fully fermented, the result is sweet and dessert-like. If the wine is fully fermented, with all of the original natural sugars converted to alcohol, the end product is dry. The aging process and sugars in fortified wines create complex flavors that are great companions for cured meats, and that's why they're the ideal addition to your ham glaze and sauce.

Spike your ham glaze for deeper flavor

If you'd like to try the flavor of port with ham, look no further than Ina Garten's recipe for orange-scented, juicy baked ham. Port added to an orange marmalade and Dijon mustard glaze makes for a sticky and satisfying flavor combination, not to mention a beautiful burnished finish on the ham. Port is typically aged in barrels, giving a deep, rich background taste to the glaze that makes the sugary concoction more balanced and savory.

Or, maybe you've got a bottle of Madeira or Marsala on hand you'd like to find a good use for. You could use a bit in this smoky pineapple glazed ham recipe. Adding ½ cup of either of those fortified wines to the glazing liquid will cut back on the intensity of the sweetness and add a layer of woodsy umami that is an inspired bridge between the smoke, salt, and tart pineapple. It's worth adding a splash to your favorite ham glaze recipe to gain all of the flavors fortified wines bring — and save a bit to sip along with your meal too!