Everybody ♥’s Monte’s Ham

| April 19, 2011 | 2 Comments

Behold - the perfect ham for Easter, Christmas, and buffet parties. The sight of this beauty will dazzle your guests and, even better, they will probably tell you that it’s the best glazed ham they have ever eaten And they’ll be right. What’s in it for you? A glorious vision of a showstopping carnivore’s masterpiece to anchor your buffet, beaucoup praise, ample food for a fairly large gathering and, when all is said and done, a substantial bone with lovely bits of surviving ham to grace a soup of your choice.

About 10 years ago I spied a recipe in a book named The Best Recipes of 1999 , simply called “Monte’s Ham.” Shortly after, I saw the same recipe featured in Saveur. Now if you Google “Monte’s Ham,” you’ll see that word about this wonderful ham has spread far and wide. Even Monte Mathews has gotten on his own bandwagon with Montesham.com.

Monte's Ham

“When I first moved to New York City,” advertising copywriter Monte Mathews told us, “a friend gave me two pieces of advice: First, if you wear an expensive watch, you can wear anything else you want; second, when you have a lot of people over, buy a cheap ham. I already had the watch, but the cheap-ham tip threw me, and my friend did not elaborate. Not long afterward, at one of my first big-city parties, what should I see center-stage on the buffet table but a giant ham, bone intact, brown as could be. And what a ham! The mingled flavors of brown sugar and orange permeated every bite, and there was a faint hint of spice in the aftertaste. Guests hovered over it, and as the evening wore on, it became unrecognizable, thoroughly picked over. My hostess, flush with the triumph of having entertained so well, was effervescent, and I, feeling particularly close to her that night, offered to stay behind and help clean up. As she washed and I dried, I begged, ‘Please talk to me about your ham.’ Almost conspiratorially, she instructed me to buy the cheapest ham I could find, glaze the hell out of it, and cook it for a long time. ‘You can feed 30 people for $6.99!’ she exclaimed. I admit that I’ve never been able to find a bargain quite like thatbut 20 years later I still swear by cheap ham and a great glaze. I trot one out several times a year and it’s always the hit of the party.”

The Best American Recipes 1999: The Year’s Top Picks from Books, Magazine, Newspapers and the Internet - Fran McCullough and Suzanne Hamlin, Series Editors

When Monte was starting up his business, he had a porcine epiphany. After a close look at the shocking conditions of many of ham-producing companies, he decided to assume responsibility for the ethical and humane production of the product he would sell. He has eschewed “cheapest, factory-produced hams” in favor of a merciful method of raising and processing hogs.

On his site, Montesham.com, Monte Mathews has begun selling hams along with his knock-out glaze with a benevolent farm-to-table able approach. In addition to the hams and glaze, he offers a variety of local canned products such as family-sized jars of crisp pickled beets and sweet corn relish paired with a delightfully different pumpkin pickle, the sweetness of local honey and the spice of Honey Mustard. “We’re proud to be a part of New York State’s Farm to Table Initiative, helping small family farms flourish and helping feed the hungry because we donate a portion of every sale to food pantries,” states Monte in an introductory video on the home page of his site. He has abandoned “buy the cheapest ham you can find” in favor of higher quality, nitrate- and hormone-free hams from a local source on Long Island. Even the glaze is made without any preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or flavors.

Given Monte’s conscience for eating ethically, he will forgive you if you live far away from Long Island and choose to purchase a local ham. It will be more difficult to replicate his glaze as he has also disavowed condiments with high-fructose corn syrup.

If you want to wing it alone, here’s the recipe as I originally found it, with sincere gratitude to Monte Mathews for sharing it with the world.

Monte’s Ham
Adapted from The Best Recipes of 1999


  1. 1 15-pound  (7 kg.) bone-in ham
  2. 1½ cups (360 ml.) orange marmalade
  3. 1 cup (240 ml.) Dijon mustard
  4. 1½ (360 ml.) cups brown sugar, firmly packed
  5. 1 generous tablespoon (generous 15 ml.) whole cloves
  • Preheat oven to 300 °F (150  °C).
  • Trim the ham of any tough skin and excessive fat then score the ham, making parallel incisions all over with a sharp knife. Repeat the incisions at a 90° angle, creating a crosshatch pattern.
  • Place ham on a rack in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for 2 hours.
  • While the ham is roasting, mix together the 3 ingredients for the glaze and set aside.
  • When the 2 hours of roasting are done, remove the ham and increase the oven temperature to 350 °F (175 °C).
  • Carefully insert a single clove at each intersection of the crosshatch incisions. The ham will be very hot and I sometimes do this with the aid of some stainless steel pliers that I reserve for kitchen use.
  • Liberally brush the entire ham with some of the glaze and place in the oven for an additional 1½ hours.
  • Brush the ham with more of the glaze every 30 minutes, or two more times.
  • Remove the ham from the oven and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.

Serve warm or at room temperature, along with thanks to Monte!

The multi-layered savory, spicy sweetness would be complemented with a variety of wines, including pinot noir. Perhaps a dry Riesling or Viognier too!

Bon appétit

— Charles


Category: Meat, Pork

About the Author (Author Profile)

Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities

Comments (2)

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  1. Dear Charles, Thank you so much for this wonderful article. It is high praise indeed. I am particularly grateful to you for telling your readers the truth about factory farmed hams. They are a disgrace and virtually every “name brand” ham comes from a factory farm. We need to spend more time concerning ourselves with how our food is produced and under what conditions. If we did, no one would ever buy a cheap ham again. All best, Monte Mathews.

  2. […] months ago I published a post called Everybody ♥ Monte’s Ham. Monte Mathew’s recipe and story about his knockout ham was the rage in 1999 after being […]

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