easy 3-ingredient baked ham and cheese roll-up
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Ham is a staple on holiday tables throughout many parts of the world. It’s a crowd-pleaser that’s elegant enough to crown a holiday feast yet approachable enough to entice even the most finicky holiday guest. It’s also a substantial amount of meat that virtually always results in leftovers which makes it perfect to transform into appetizers for your next round of holiday feasting.

The reason why the iconic ham graces the holiday table is not an arbitrary one. Its significance is frequently attributed to the Germanic god Freyr, a pagan deity associated with fertility and an abundant harvest along with the wild boar. During ancient holiday feasts, a boar would be sacrificed as a tribute to Freyr. It was often only the boar’s head that was placed at the center of the banquet table, complete with a roasted apple in its mouth.

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Many of Freyr’s attributes were later applied to Saint Stephen in Britain, including the appearance of the ham on the holiday table, especially on Dec. 26 which is the saint’s feast day across the pond. During Victorian times, when mince meat and Christmas puddings were required staples, ham was often glazed in honey, resulting in a crispy caramelized crust.

Ham will most likely always be a fundamental feature of holiday parties throughout Europe and America. It evokes memories of festive celebrations and preserves traditions that are so critical to keeping our rituals alive. Holiday appetizers are an ideal vehicle for ham. Here are a few recipes to kick off the meal at your next holiday gathering. Happy feasting!

Holiday Tortilla Pinwheels

ham and cheese torilla pinwheels

From Valerie’s Kitchen

This is a simple recipe with minimal ingredients that can be made ahead of time and has a fun retro look to it. Ham is rolled into tortillas along with cream cheese, cranberries, feta, sour cream, and onions before the rolls are sliced into colorful segments resembling pinwheels. Mix up the color palette by selecting green and red tortillas that will not only provide additional flavor but an infusion of holiday color too. Get the recipe.

Caramelized Pineapple, Ham, and Cheese Turnovers

caramelized pineapple, ham, and cheese turnovers

Half Baked Harvest

It’s virtually guaranteed that not a single turnover will remain at the end of your ham-filled holiday party. These are so addictive with their flaky, buttery puff pastry shell wrapped around ham, melted Swiss cheese, and sweet caramelized pineapple that a double batch is recommended. They can be made ahead of time and baked just before the festivities begin. The result is an elegant appetizer that will become a new staple beloved by everyone gathered around your holiday table. Get the recipe.

Ham and Cheese Quiche Bites

mini ham and cheese quiche cups

The Farm Girl Gabs

Brunch was made for ham appetizers and these sweet ham and cheese bites are distinguished enough to grace the holiday brunch table yet simple enough to make ahead of time. Wonton wrappers form the base for a silky bite of quiche speckled with flecks of scallions and ham bound together by a handful of cheddar cheese. Get the recipe.

Ham and Turkey Club Sliders

ham and turkey club sliders

Bread Booze Bacon

Sliders are the perfect vehicle for leftover holiday ham. These three-bite crowd pleasers feature melted provolone cheese along with ham and smoked turkey tucked into buttery rolls slicked with mayonnaise and spicy mustard along with a dash of garlic powder and dried parsley. They’re the perfect enticements to gather the family around after a holiday game of touch football or to keep energy up during a demanding gift wrapping (or unwrapping) session. Get the recipe.

Three-Ingredient Ham and Cheese Rollups

easy 3-ingredient baked ham and cheese roll-up

The Comfort of Cooking

It’s hard to believe that this addictive appetizer features only three ingredients but apparently, when ham and cheese meets freshly baked bread along with a side of spicy dipping mustard, nothing more is required. This easy recipe can be made ahead of time and baked just before the holiday fun begins. The aroma of baked bread will fill your home with cozy comfort long before this loaf filled with cheesy-porky flavor arrives at your holiday table. Get the recipe.

Gluten-Free Honey Baked Ham and Potato Empanadas

gluten free honey baked ham and potato empanadas

Cotter Crunch

Invite a little South American flavor to your holiday table with these tasty empanadas filled with creamy potatoes and honey baked ham. They’re the kind of appetizer that your family will never tire of so make a few batches and serve them to kick off a meal or whenever an extra dose of holiday spirit is required. Get the recipe.

For more tips, hacks, and recipes, check out our Ultimate Guide to Christmas and Holiday Entertaining Headquarters.

Related Video: How to Make Grilled Ham and Cheese Waffle Sandwiches

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Jody Eddy is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan. She has cooked at Jean Georges, The Fat Duck, and Tabla and is the former editor of Art Culinaire Magazine. Her most recent cookbook was "Cuba! Recipes and Stories From a Cuban Kitchen", published by Ten Speed Press. Her cookbook "North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland" was published by Ten Speed Press in 2014 and won the 2015 IACP Judge's Choice Award. She is the author of the James Beard nominated cookbook "Come In, We're Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World's Best Restaurants" and her upcoming book for Ten Speed, "The Hygge Life", will be published in November, 2017. She is writing a cookbook for W.W. Norton profiling the cuisine and food traditions of monasteries, temples, mosques and synagogues around the world which will be published in 2019 and a cookbook with the Food Network chef Maneet Chauhan profiling the cuisine of India via an epic train journey throughout the country. She writes for Travel+Leisure, Saveur, Food & Wine, The Wall Street Journal, Plate, and VICE, among others. She is the author of JodyEddy.com, leads culinary trend tours for food and beverage corporations in Iceland, Peru, Mexico, Ireland and Cuba and is the Vice President of Marketing, Partnerships and Events at Hop Springs, an 85 acre agritourism destination opening in Nashville in May, 2018.
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