christmas dinner

How to Make a Planetary Ham at Christmas

planetary ham

Planetary ham with champagne sauce by Elizabeth Weintraub

Far back as I can remember, my family always served ham on Christmas day. So, it’s not surprising that I would continue with this tradition as an adult. Besides, it’s a lot less work than stuffing a turkey. Every year I prepare a planetary ham with champagne sauce, except for this year because we will be on a trip to Cuba.  I’d like to share my wonderful recipe with you though, it comes from an old 1969 cookbook, which I actually bought in 1969: Cooking With Astrology, by Sydney Omarr.

You may remember the name, Sydney Omarr, as the author of a sun sign horoscope column that was syndicated in newspapers across the country or you may have read one of his many books on astrology, but more than likely the name may ring a bell as the celebrity astrologer. He died in 2003 at age 76.

I’m not really a follower of astrology. But we’re talking about 1969, when astrology was all the rage. When the social pick-up line was not delivered in the form of a text message but was a verbal, face-to-face question: “What is your sign?”

Whether the cookbook, Cooking With Astrology, has any bearing on relationships, is not relevant. The thing is the book contains a lot of unusual and mouth-watering recipes, like the Planetary Ham. Sour cream raisin pie (Leo), for example, is one of my favorites. But the best recipe, by far, is planetary ham with champagne sauce (Aquarius).

My friend Lisa is fond of saying that she loves cooking with wine and sometimes puts it in her food. Since this recipe uses only one cup of champagne, there is still plenty left to go around.

The first thing I do is cut off the rind of the pre-cooked soon to be Planetary ham, then chop it into one-inch squares and fry, flipping every minute or so. After the rind is nice and crisp, I drain the pork rinds on paper towels, drop them into a glass jar, sprinkle with salt, shake and eat. I call these Chicharrones. Great as appetizers, assuming there are any left when guests arrive.

Next, I slice the ham diagonally and crisscrossed, about 1/8-inch all around, rub with mustard, stud with cloves, followed by a light rubbing of brown sugar. Using toothpicks, I secure pineapple rings to the top of the ham and stick candied cherries in the center of each ring. Bake at 325 until warm (cover with aluminum foil to prevent the cherries and pineapple from burning).

Here is the recipe for the Champagne Sauce, to be served alongside the Planetary ham:

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/3 cup grape jelly
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup of champagne
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water.

Put the brown sugar into a sauce pan and continually stir over a low heat until the brown sugar is melted. Do not drink champagne during this crucial step or you may burn the brown sugar. Slowly add the remaining ingredients except the cornstarch and water; continue to stir. When it begins to bubble, add the cornstarch and water, and cook on low heat for another minute. Serve immediately.

While Elizabeth is in Cuba, we revisit former blogs published elsewhere.

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