Ask A Boston Chef: Smoked-Maple Christmas Ham

December 12, 2013 6:28 AM

Smoked Maple Christmas Ham (Photo from Pantry)

Ham. It’s the traditional centerpiece of many-a-Christmas dinners. And without a good ham, the entire meal could suffer. But rest assured, Chef Alastair Mclean of Pantry Restaurant at The VERVE Crowne Plaza in Natick drops his recipe for a fantastic Smoked-Maple ham that will have guests smiling.

Chef Alastair Mclean

Chef Alastair Mclean

Chef Alastair Mclean
Pantry Restaurant
The VERVE Crowne Plaza – Natick
1360 Worcester Street
Natick, MA 01760
(508) 653-8800

Smoked-Maple Ham

Smoked Maple Christmas Ham (Photo from Pantry)

Smoked Maple Christmas Ham (Photo from Pantry)

• 4 quarts water (plus 2 tbsps.)
• Medium-large bone-in or boneless ham
• 2 cups dark brown sugar
• 1 cup molasses
• 2 tbsp. liquid smoke
• 1 cup soy sauce
• 1 cup maple syrup
• 3/4 cup sea salt
• 8-10 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
• 6-8 whole bay leaves
• 3 large sprigs of thyme (tied with kitchen twine)
• 2 teaspoons whole peppercorns

Place 2 quarts of water in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup soy sauce, ¾ cup sea salt, garlic cloves, peppercorns, thyme, bay leaves, 1 cup molasses, 1¾ cup dark brown sugar, and ½ cup maple syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil, making sure the sugar and maple syrup are dissolved. Remove from heat, add remaining 2 quarts and allow brine to cool completely. Submerge ham in brine for 24 to 48 hours depending on size.

In a separate bowl, combine remaining maple syrup and dark brown sugar. Add the liquid smoke and 2 tablespoons of water. Mix the ingredients together until they form a glaze. Refrigerate if necessary.

Prior to cooking the ham, remove it from the brine and set it on a large platter, allowing it to reach room temperature. Dry off any excess brine with paper towels. Preheat the oven to 275F.

With a sharp knife, make small diagonal slices across the surface of the ham (about 1 inch apart) then repeat in the opposite direction to form a checkerboard-like appearance.

Place ham in a roasting pan and put it in the oven, basting it with the glaze every 30 minutes until fully cooked. Internal temperature should reach 150F.

Once the ham reaches 150F, remove it from the oven and loosely tent it with foil. Allow the ham to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.


Born and raised in Perth, Australia, Alastair McLean’s love of cooking began in high school. He worked at a number of renowned international restaurants in his early 20s before becoming Executive Chef roll in St. Anton, Austria with the highly regarded and award-winning luxury holiday and tour planning group, Scott Dunn. Here, he created custom menus intended to suit the refined tastes and preferences of families staying at two of Scott Dunn’s private, amenity-filled chalets.

An outdoorsman all his life, it was McLean’s stint as a white water rafting instructor when he met his future wife, packed his bags and moved to Boston to start life as a newlywed. Once settled, he landed a highly-coveted position with the Mandarin Oriental hotel, where he was able to expand his knowledge of molecular gastronomy when the technique was first popping up in restaurant kitchens across America.

As Executive Chef of The VERVE Crowne Plaza –Natick, McLean is constantly developing new plates featuring classic flavors and locally-sourced ingredients that are influenced by his global experiences, while still keeping a New England focus at the core of the hotel’s culinary program. McLean resides in the Boston-area with his wife and son, and always enjoys getting back home to Australia to visit family and friends.