Friday, April 3, 2015

“Baked Fresh Ham with Port Wine” & “Bunny Buns” To Celebrate Easter Sunday

Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter! “May your Easter basket be filled with blessings and joy. I wish you, your family, and your friends a day filled with loving memories.”

Here on Long Island and many other places the weather is not cooperating with the time of the year. It is taking Mother Nature much longer to see the flowers starting to bloom. The sun should be getting warmer, and the air should have that hint of freshness that only spring can bring. Easter falls in the spring, which is when the earth renews itself after winter. Easter is a day to dress in your Sunday best, go to church, celebrate life, enjoy traditional foods with your family, and of course eat way too much chocolate. Sometimes we forget that Christians all over the world celebrate Easter as a religious holiday, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God.

In Italy, the church bells stop ringing on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to remember the death of Jesus on the cross. Then on Easter Sunday morning, the church bells ring out once again, telling people that Jesus has risen. Italian children wake up on Easter morning and find eggs scattered in their rooms. Eggs, rabbits, and young animals are thought to represent re-birth and fertility in the spring. Easter is considered the most important religious event of the year in Italy, even shadowing over Christmas in its religious and cultural importance.
Lauren (my niece) at Egg Hunt

In my family we always had an Easter egg hunt for the small children. I recall back, taking those plastic colored eggs and filling them with some change plus candy or chocolate eggs. Then we would go outside in my parent’s yard and hide them. My nieces, nephews, and my son would all go out and see who could find the most. It was so funny to watch the really small children find the eggs; they would get so excited when they found one.

Throughout the world the most popular Easter symbol is the lamb. The reference to the lamb in Christianity goes back to the book of Genesis, from the Bible. In past centuries it was considered a lucky omen to meet a lamb, especially at Easter time. 

Butter in shape of lamb

In the 7th century the Benedictine monks wrote a prayer for the blessing of lambs.  Little figures of the lamb are made of butter, pastry, cakes, or chocolate have been substituted for the meat, forming Easter table centerpieces. Many Easter Sundays, I can remember my mom cooking lamb for dinner along with our Italian traditional dishes.
Easter celebrations have many customs and legends that have nothing to do with the religious Christian celebration of Christ’s rising. Did you ever think of where and how these traditional celebrations of colored eggs, cute little bunnies, and Easter Lilies come from? Let’s start with the Easter Bunny, which was a symbol of spring and fertility, due to the rapid reproduction habits of the rabbit. This custom originated in Germany and brought to America particularly to Pennsylvania. The German children would eagerly await the arrival of the Oschter Haws, a rabbit who delighted children on Easter morning by laying colored eggs in nests. The German’s baked cakes for Easter in the shape of bunnies they spread the tradition of chocolate bunnies and eggs across the country. The practice of making nests for the rabbits to lay its eggs in became decorated baskets and colorful eggs which were swapped for candy, treats and small other gifts. The white Easter Lily has come to symbolize the spiritual values of Easter; purity, life, and renewal. The flower’s trumpet shape is a reminder of the heralding of Jesus, returning to Jerusalem.

Christians consider eggs to be “the seed of life” and so they are symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter eggs are colored and decorated to represent the sunlight of spring. Different cultures have developed their own ways of decorating Easter eggs. The most celebrated workshops are Faberge. They created exquisite jeweled Easter eggs for the Russian Imperial Court, and they are still the most sought after eggs in the world.

My recipe this week is called “Baked Fresh Ham with Port Wine.” My brother found this recipe in the New York Times, many years ago and thought my mother would like to prepare this as our Easter Sunday Dinner one year. And I must say it was delicious. Between the ham, wine, rosemary, and sage, the aromas were incredible as well as the taste. This dish can be prepared for any day or any occasion.

Baked Fresh Ham with Port Wine

1  12-to-14-pound fresh ham, unsmoked 

3 large garlic cloves cut into 12 slices
1 tablespoon crumbled leaf of rosemary
1 tablespoon crumbled sage
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 medium-size onions, peeled
1/2 cup port wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups water, if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 375°F  Place the ham, skin side up, on a flat surface and, using the tip of a very sharp knife, make 1/4-inch-deep gashes, from the butt end to the shank end, cutting through the skin at 1-inch intervals. Insert a sliver of garlic into each gash. In a small mixing bowl, blend well the rosemary, sage, salt and pepper and rub the mixture on the ham. Place the ham, flat side up, in a large baking dish or roasting pan and place in oven. Bake, basting occasionally, for 2 1/2 hours. Remove all the fat from the roasting pan and add the onions. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and cover with aluminum foil. Continue baking and basting for an additional 30 minutes.  Remove the fat from the pan. In a small mixing bowl, blend the wine, chicken stock and tomato paste. Add to the ham in the roasting pan. Re-cover ham with foil and continue baking for 1 1/2 hours or until the ham is thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165
°F degrees. If the liquid is reduced too much, add 1 or 2 cups of water. Remove the ham from the roasting pan. Tilt the pan and using the spoon, skim off the fat and return the ham to the pan.  Cover with foil and let the ham rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.  Serve the ham sliced with the pan gravy spooned over. Yield:  12-20 people

My other recipe this week is called “Bunny Buns” by Rhodes Bake and Serve Rolls. This is an easy recipe and the children can help make these little delicious warm rolls for your Easter table.

“Bunny Buns”

12 Rhodes Dinner Rolls, thawed but still cold

Cut a small piece off of one roll for a tail. Roll remaining piece into a 12-inch rope with pointed ends. Twist top of rope together. Place on a large sprayed baking sheet and pull pointed ends apart for ears. Roll small cut off piece into a ball for the tail. Make an indentation with your finger at the spot for the tail. Moisten the tail with water and place in the indentation. Repeat the above steps with remaining rolls. Cover with sprayed plastic wrap and allow to rise 30-45 minutes. Remove wrap and bake at 350° F 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy with butter for your Easter Dinner. Serves: 6

Till Next Time…………………..

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  1. I love those bunny buns! And that ham cooked in port must be a real delicacy. I wish you a fantastic Easter dear Dottie. Enjoy this long weekend. Ciao!

    1. Dear Alida,
      Thank you for your comment. I also love these bunny buns. they are so easy and so cute. You can make your own dough, but sometimes we need a little help when we have so many other dishes we need to prepare. Every time this ham is made it gets such a stating ovation from the family. My mom used to make a Raisin Sauce that we would use as a gravy, but my mom can't find the recipe. It was delicious. How I cook this ham, one part that goes to the ham and the other part of the port, goes to the cook....yummy...Thanks for your words dear friend, and I also wish for you a beautiful and blessed Easter to you and your family. I will be posting on Sunday an Easter greeting and also a note to say that I am taking a hiatus for some R & R as they say for 2 weeks. I will be back stronger and with more fabulous recipes on April 21. Just to give you heads up.Enjoy!
      Dottie :)

  2. Good afternoon Dottie ,
    What a enjoyable Easter post , hubby aunt enjoyed it so much and asked me to print it out for her so she can read it to the kids ,
    I must make some bunny buns , they will help dress up the table .
    The pork roast looks just delicious .
    I make one similar to that one , I will post mine Monday and Wednesday , because I have cooked them yet . I asked which one they wanted and they wants both , no problem I have a lot of family arriving in town .
    One is a pork roast cooked in champagne and vinegar and the other is pork shoulder with spring vegetables .
    Dear Dottie I wish for you and your family a very blessed and happy Easter and to enjoy . So my friend , a most joyful Easter to your family from mine Nee :)

    1. Good evening Nee,
      Thank you for your comments. So glad that you and your family enjoyed reading this info. I agree the bunny buns are so adorable and they do dress the table, especially with the kids. This photo of the ham was taken a while ago, this recipe has been used many times for holidays as well as for company. It is so good, my mom even had a raisin gravy that she used make with it but she can't find the recipe and doesn't remember it. I love the pork shoulder with spring veggies. The one with champagne and vinegar I never had that combo, but it must be delish! Dear friend thank you for your Easter wishes and I wish you the same to you and your family. Blessings....
      Dottie :)