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In a few short weeks, the season of Lent will come to an end on April 15, so meat eaters can rejoice if they had given up meat for Lent. And for those who can already smell the ham, it's not too early to begin planning for a big family meal on Easter, which comes on Sunday, April 16.

Those who crave a simmering slice of ham won't be alone, either across the country or across South Dakota. The National Pork Board conducted a Ham Research Study in 2016 and found that that 69 percent of Americans served ham for Easter dinner in 2016. Furthermore, 55 percent of consumers enjoy ham as an everyday meal.

On behalf of the pork producers in South Dakota, here are a couple of ham centerpiece meal ideas. Other recipes can be found online at porkbeinspired.com to assist with meal planning dilemmas for any occasion this spring.

Apricot glazed ham

A quick and easy sauce glazed over ham makes an ordinary occasion a special meal.

5 pound fully-cooked boneless ham

1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 tablespoon cornstarch

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cloves

2/3 cup apricot nectar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place ham on rack in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, in a 325-degree F oven for 1¼ hours or until meat thermometer registers 140 degrees F, about 15-18 minutes per pound.

For the glaze, in a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg and cloves. Stir in apricot nectar and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly.

Brush ham with glaze. Continue baking 15-20 minutes more, brushing occasionally with glaze. Serves 10 to 12.

Serve glazed ham with green bean casserole, garlic mashed potatoes, and fruit salad.

Glazed ham with pecan crust

In this recipe, a traditional ham meets a Southern inspiration. Complete the meal with sweet potato casserole, creamed spinach, and baking powder biscuits.

5 pound bone-in fully cooked ham

1 cup apple cider

½ cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard

3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place ham in baking dish and pour cider over. Roast in oven, basting with cider every 30 minutes for a total cooking time of 2.5 hours (about 15-18 minutes per pound), or until thermometer registers 140 degrees.

Meanwhile, in bowl, combine brown sugar, mustard and pecans.

Remove ham from oven during the last 40 minutes and firmly pat the sugar pecan mixture all over the ham. Return to oven and continue roasting until crust is brown and ham is done. Slice ham and serve with sauce. Some of the topping may fall into the sauce, which makes a perfect accompaniment to the ham. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Italian Easter meat pie

The following pie is one of many versions of an Easter dish served in Italian homes to celebrate the end of the Lent season. It makes two pies, but can easily be adjusted to make just one dish.

Crust:

4¾ cups flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup olive oil

1½ cups warm water

Filling:

6 large eggs

4 cups ricotta cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

2 cups ham, diced into ½-inch cubes

2 cups Genoa salami, diced into ½-inch cubes

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2 cups pepperoni, diced into ½ -inch cubes

8-10 slices very thinly sliced prosciutto

Olive oil, for brushing on the crust

To make the dough:

Mix dough ingredients; knead by hand or by machine until a soft, smooth dough is formed.

Place dough in lightly greased bowl, cover, and allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours, until almost doubled in bulk.

To make the filling:

While the dough is rising, stir together the eggs, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

Stir in ham, salami, and pepperoni.

Divide the filling in half, about 4½ cups each.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Have two 9-inch pie pans ready.

Gently deflate the dough and divide it into four pieces. Two of the pieces will be bottom crusts, and should be slightly larger than the two other pieces.

Place one of the larger pieces of dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a circle about 16 inches in diameter. Let rest 5 minutes. Roll again. Drape into the pie plate, securing edges to the pan by folding them underneath the rim.

Roll one of the smaller pieces of dough the same way allowing it to rest between rolling.

Line the bottom crust with half the prosciutto slices. Spoon half the filling on top. Drape the top crust over the filling. Bring the edge of the bottom crust up over the edge of the top crust, sealing the two together.

Cut a 1-inch circle in the center of the top crust to allow steam to escape.

Repeat process with remaining crusts and filling.

Place pies on large parchment-lined baking sheet.

Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake pies 80 minutes until golden brown.

Remove pies 5 minutes before end of baking time. Brush with olive oil. Return to oven. This will give crust a pleasing browned appearance.

Remove pies from oven. Let rest for 1 to 2 hours before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Happy spring, and Happy Easter in advance from the pork producers of South Dakota.

Ronda Snyder is an education consultant for the South Dakota Pork Producers Council.

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