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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.