Ham refers to cuts of pork meat that comes from the hind leg – it can be a whole ham which includes the butt and shank cuts, butt end which is the uppercut of the hind leg, shank end which refers to the lower cut of the hind leg, and center cut ham steak which is sliced from the center of the ham roughly ½ to 1 inch thick. All of these ham cuts can be made even more special when seasonings are combined together for a flavorful smoked ham rub.
If you’re using fresh hams and going to cure it yourself, then much better since you can introduce the spices in your brining solution or ham rub. The spices will have more time to gently seep into the very core of your meat. Working with cured hams is not a problem either. Yes, your prepared smoked ham rub will likely just flavor the surface of the meat but it still adds flavor. Envision biting into that crusty flavorful layer along with that wonderfully cured seasoned meat.
Curing your own ham may sound intimidating but it’s quite easy really. The challenge is more on finding the right spices for ham to use in your brine or dry rub. First off, choose the cut of meat that you want to use. Buy from reliable sources so that you can ensure your meat’s quality. Now, decide whether you’re going to dry-cured it (introducing salt with other spices without water – hence, dry), or wet-cured it using a brine solution (which is basically soaking your meat in water with salt and other spices).
Now the spices for ham to use. It’s fun to experiment with different spices until you find the right combo that will ultimately make you say, this is the one! This is the not-so-secret ham rub that I’m going to keep bragging about! Sounds awesome, right? Well, before that, perhaps check your pantry first and see what spices and herbs you have there right now. Keep a mental note of what you got so far (if you’re missing a spice or two, no problem, with a few clicks now you can simply buy it online). Now see our list of spices for ham here along with suggested recipes and see which ones appeal to your taste and you would likely try.
Table of Contents
Spices for Ham
Bay leaves or sometimes called Laurel leaves, have a pungent and bitter taste with slightly floral and herbal notes. It’s a good source of vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, magnesium, as well as potassium. It helps with blood sugar health, improves digestion, and helps relieve respiratory conditions. Bay leaves also have antibacterial properties.
It is the leaves of plants belonging to the flowering plant family called Lauraceae and is native to the Mediterranean region. The leaves can be used fresh, dried, or grounded.
This brine solution uses 8 pieces of bay leaves – it may sound a lot at first but compared to the amount of liquid that is going to be used, it’s just perfect. The bay leaves will add a subtle but deep flavor to your ham.
This spice blend originated in Louisiana and normally includes cayenne, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, white pepper, and salt. It is quite spicy with subtle earthiness and smokiness There is no set recipe and spices can vary from a handful to a dozen.
And because it’s a mix of different spices, it’s also packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber from those spices. Health benefits can range from anti-inflammatory benefits to alleviating constipation to reducing the risk of cancer – it basically depends on the blend of spices used.
Cajun really works with allspice, cloves, and nutmeg in this honey-spiced glaze. Don’t worry the spice combo is actually pretty mild. It has just the perfect amount of seasoning to create a beautiful and delicious crust that will boost your ham’s flavor.
This red-colored powder is very spicy with a quite mild aroma. It contains beta carotene, choline, cryptoxanthin, lutein, and vitamins C and E. Cayenne aids in boosting the immune system, managing weight loss, relieving pain, and fighting bacteria.
Cayenne is powdered dried cayenne peppers which is a type of Capsicum annuum. These red-colored peppers appear skinny and elongated with a curved tip. The peppers are dried and then grounded into a powder.
The recipe says it’s a millionaire’s ham – well, if you can nail down the glazing part (which you absolutely can), your ham will surely look like a million bucks. The recipe calls for just a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, feel free to add more of course if you want to really want it spicy. There’s a lot of sugar and orange juice there so don’t worry because those will counterbalance the spiciness from the cayenne.
Cinnamon has a hint of citrusy notes with a spicy, sweet, and woody flavor. It’s rich in highly potent polyphenol antioxidants. It aids in managing blood sugar levels and also contains antibacterial and fungal properties.
Cinnamon is the inner bark of a tee spice that is harvested and dried. It can be used in stick form or ground form.
This brown sugar and spice combo will give your ham a lovely crust and a beautiful aroma. The cinnamon provides not just another layer of flavor but an aromatic smell as well making your ham a tiny bit extra delicious.
Cloves are an aromatic spice that is somewhat sweet and bitter, it has an astringent with a noticeable amount of heat. It’s rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that help in reducing inflammation, improving liver function, and lower the risk of developing diabetes, heart diseases, and certain types of cancers.
It is actually the flower buds of a tree that belongs to the Myrtle family. Aside from cooking, it is also used in traditional medicine, cigarettes, and ant repellent.
The cloves are not just key flavor additives in this spice-rubbed ham recipe, it also adds in the overall presentation making your ham looking like an absolute holiday treat. Although the recipe says to remove the cloves and then slice, I prefer leaving a big chunk unsliced with the cloves still intact – again, for presentation purposes.
Coriander seeds have a nutty, spicy, citrusy, and warm flavor that is further enhanced when dry roasted first before cracking the seeds. It’s a good source of copper, iron, zinc, and other minerals which helps to reduce bad cholesterol, improve heart health, and increase metabolism.
The seeds come from the coriander which is an herb belonging to the Apiaceae family. It is a close relative of parsley, celery, and carrots.
Coriander seeds pair perfectly with cumin in this roasted fresh ham recipe. Their flavor meshes well with the pineapple juice’s acidity. For the side dish, green beans sound like a great, simple, and interesting choice – that is of course if you know the right spices for snaps to use.
Cumin has an earthy and warm flavor with a slightly sweet and bitter taste. It contains vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K, iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Cumin aids in the healthy digestive tract, control blood sugar levels, lower bad cholesterol levels, and fight bacteria and parasite.
It comes from a plant that belongs to Cuminum cyminum family. The seeds are harvest and dried and can be used both as whole or ground.
This maple-mustard glaze compliments the flavors of the different spices induced into the ham. Its sweetness allows caramelization which creates another layer of flavor and makes your hams looking absolutely lovely.
These seeds have a somewhat sweet and licorice-like taste. It contains fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients. Fennel seeds also have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and cancer-fighting properties.
These are actually the seeds of a flowering plant species in the carrot family called fennel. The plant’s bulb, foliage, and fruits are all used in cooking.
Although this recipe calls for curing the meat for 1-3 days, it’s going to be worth it, be patient. The herbs and spices combination is simply a must-try. (Don’t skip the whole spice toasting steps – it will make a huge difference.) The roasted citrus is also a refreshing touch.
This spice blend has a sweet, licorice-like flavor with a slightly peppery taste. It’s high in vitamin A, carotene, pyridoxine, iron, manganese, and calcium. And because it’s a blend of spices, there is also a mix of health benefits like lowering blood sugar, relieving nausea, easing pain, and fighting inflammation.
Five-spice powder is a blend of spices representing the sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and pungent taste. So the mix is normally made from a combination of cloves, Sichuan pepper, star anise, cinnamon, and fennel seeds.
If you don’t have the pre-mix five-spice, simply make one yours. Whatever the case may be just make sure that you try this orange and five-spice glaze on your ham. The spice simply works. The sticky and golden surface is definitely appealing to the eye, you can outrightly smell how good it is as well.
Ground ginger has a warm, spicy taste with a slightly sweet flavor. It contains unique compounds like gingerol, shogaols, zingiberene, zingerone. It helps in managing blood sugar, relieving nausea, and reducing muscle soreness.
Ground ginger is simply the powdered form of dried ginger. Ginger belongs to the family Zingiberaceae and can be used fresh, dried in powder form, and even in candied form.
This glaze for baked ham will surely leave you in awe. Ground ginger in rum, honey, vinegar, and pineapple seem like an odd combination but together with allspice and chili flakes, the glaze comes together perfectly.
Paprika’s taste varies depending on the type of pepper used, it can range from mild and sweet, to spicy. It has antibacterial properties, a good amount of vitamin E, and contains beneficial compounds as well like niacin and carotenoid antioxidants.
This rich red-colored powder is the ground dried fruits of the Capsicum annuum plant which is the sweater variety with milder and thinner flesh.
This aromatic spiced ham is aromatic indeed! From the brine solution to the glaze – it’s simply packed with flavors from spice combinations including paprika. Using currant jelly is also a nice and unique choice as a base for the glaze.
Red pepper flakes
Red pepper flakes taste slightly sharp, earthy, with a noticeable amount of spicy. It’s high in beta carotene, cryptoxanthin, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A, B-6, C, and E. it helps in boosting our immune system, aiding in weight loss, and improving eye and skin health.
It is a combination of different peppers (dominantly cayenne pepper) that are dried and then grounded roughly with the seeds and skin bits still visible.
You can readily tell how flavorful this ham recipe already – from the brine solution to the ‘paste,’ to the glaze. The recipe is courtesy of Ann Burrell so you can expect an amazing flavor combo here. The ingredients list may seem intimidating but be patient and keep your cool – it’s going to be worth it.
Sichuan peppercorns have a citrus-like flavor with pine and lavender notes. It also has a numbing effect because of the presence of hydroxy-alpha sanshool. It’s a good source of vitamin A, copper, iron, zinc, manganese, potassium, and phosphorus. It helps in stimulating circulation, reducing pain, eliminating inflammation, relieving toothache, and protecting the stomach.
Sichuan peppers actually belong to the family Rutaceae and in no way related to black pepper or chili pepper in spite of their name.
Make any day festive by serving this ham glazed with the sticky honey-Sichuan concoction. It looks simply divine and tastes absolutely amazing. (Don’t forget the grilled peaches!)