Here we are again, the Easter holidays. Easter dinner was a big deal in our family back in Spanish Harlem. And it was always lamb. Sometimes my mother would make lamb and a roast pork shoulder (pernil) for those who didn’t like lamb. But lamb was the mainstay. 

It wasn’t until I traveled down South that I discovered that ham was the biggie. And by that I mean a big, juicy Smithfield ham. This ham is a specific type of ham that comes from Virginia. It is usually a country ham that been naturally cured in salt and brown sugar. The other type is a smoked ham, which is cured in a brine consisting of sugar, salt and spices, and are fully cooked. You get them bone-in (with the bone) or boneless for easy slicing. Of course, if all fails or you can’t get these items, then there is canned ham, like Spam, but larger. This is the last option, short of death. There is also what is know as “Virginia ham.” This is similar to the Smithfield, but it does not come from Smithfield Virginia proper.

Now that I’ve got you properly confused, let me say that I used a smoked ham for the following recipe. It’s the only type I could get at the time. And it wasn’t too bad. In fact, it was pretty good since I cooked it in maple syrup ( a suggestion from my wife—who loves maple syrup, especially from Vermont). The recipe is amazingly easy, and the result are fabulous. Not the Nuyorican pernil, but a good substitute.


1 smoked ham (3-4 pounds)
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 stick butter
1/3 cup maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Prick ham all over with the tines of a fork; and rub with ground cloves. 
3. In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat. Add the maple syrup and combine.
4. Rub ham with maple-butter mixture, using a brush or, of you don’t have a brush, using your hands.
5. Place in a baking pan and bake 15 minutes per pound or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.  
6. Place in serving dish or platter and slice thinly.
    Yield: 4 servings.