Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Lore of Our Grandmother's: Dr. Pepper Ham

You know those stories wherein an indigenous tribe in the Andies has been rubbing some sort of tree bark on their cuts since time immemorial, then later it turns out that the bark was really a super antiseptic? Well, I like those sorts of stories. I tend to think that a lot of these sorts of situations happen in the recipes of the past.

You see I have a sort of fetish for all of the 1950s and 1960s era strange and wonderful recipes to be found in various periodicals and branded cookbooks. Something about the bizarre mishmashes of ingredients and the horrid food photography of those days just tickles me pink (go poke about the venerable Gallery of Regrettable Food for some examples).

Anyhow, sometimes I think there is method in the madness of our Grandma's. Take Dr. Pepper Ham for instance. You can poke about and find various recipes for this out there, the one I use is fairly simple. A bone in shank ham, pineapple, and brown sugar is all you need. Sounds pretty strange (even a bit vomitous) right? Maybe there is something to it. As I had been tasked by the in-laws to "bring ham" for Thanksgiving this year,  I thought I would experiment on them.

As you all know, pineapple contains Bromelain which is a protease enzyme that acts as a tenderizer and can break down meat fibers. That pineapple on top of your Al Pastor is no accident, it serves a function. Maybe there is a strange interplay between the acidic Dr. Pepper and the enzymatic action of the pineapple that results in some sort of delicious, tender ham. I just don't know.

The process is simple, stake those pineapple rings (make sure you use fresh, the canning process destroys the enzymes) into your ham until it looks like some sort of horrible, monster larva then douse it with the Dr. P. Throw it covered into a slow oven for a couple hours, then uncover and cake with brown sugar. Throw it back in for a bit and that is all she wrote.

I cooked it yesterday, and will be serving it today. I am not going to reheat it, just gonna let it come up to room temp I think. I will let you know if everyone's favorite raisin flavored beverage, along with the pineapple makes for a delicious ham. I kind of think it is going to taste like ham-candy, but we shall see.


  1. Apropos of nothing, Dr. Pepper makes a kick ass ingredient for BBQ pork ribs

    "You can't stuff a ham, Gordon! There's no hole"

  2. How did it come out? Dr. Pepper and RC seem to be the sodas that come up the most often in Recipes I've seen.

  3. I'm a little concerned with true authenticity; has the Dr. Pepper recipe changed over the years? Maybe we're missing out on some bit of crucial food science.

  4. Bayesian Bouffant, FCDNovember 30, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    Wikipedia says the optimal pH for bromelain is 4.5-5.5, so acid is certainly good for it.

    The pH of Various Soft Drinks
    by Sara W.
    says most sodas are in the pH range 2 - 4.

    I am concerned about your choice of cookware though. Acid + high temperature + bare aluminum => corrosion.

  5. Maybe that is why Grandmas always used corningware.... The mystery grows.


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