All my favorite holiday meals are served with some kind of sauce. Gravy elevates Thanksgiving turkey and tastes great with leftover mashed potatoes. Horseradish sauce adds that characteristic zing to prime rib roasts. So what sauce goes with ham? A classic raisin sauce for ham adds depth and a hint of sweetness to any Easter ham recipe.
In this easy ham sauce, raisins plump up as they simmer in a sweet and tangy sauce, while cornstarch thickens the mixture to the perfect consistency. Swirl in a little butter, then pour the sauce over sliced ham to for an elegant, gorgeous finish.
Ingredients for Raisin Sauce for Ham
- Raisins: Sweet raisins pair exceptionally well with the salty, savory flavors of ham. The dried fruits will plump up as they simmer in the ham sauce, lending a pleasantly chewy texture.
- Brown sugar: You can use light or dark brown sugar in this recipe. Light brown sugar has less molasses, so its flavor is more delicate. Dark brown sugar, on the other hand, adds a deeper, richer flavor to the sauce.
- Cornstarch: Cornstarch is a great way to thicken sauces like this raisin sauce. Sauces thickened with flour can turn out cloudy, but cornstarch gives the sauce a clear, shiny appearance.
- Vinegar and lemon juice: These acidic ingredients add a tanginess that balances the sweet ingredients. Make sure to zest the lemon before juicing it. It’s much harder to zest after you cut into it.
- Butter: Butter adds fat to raisin sauce with ham. Fat mellows out the acidity of the vinegar and lemon juice, and it also carries other flavors. Even a small amount of this rich ingredient will make the rest of the flavors shine a little brighter.
Step 1: Stir together the ingredients
In a saucepan, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch and ground mustard. Stir in the water, raisins, vinegar, lemon juice and grated lemon zest until blended.
Step 2: Cook the raisin sauce
Bring the mixture to a boil. Cook and stir for two minutes or until thickened. Stir in the butter until melted.
Editor’s Tip: Adding cold butter to a hot sauce is a French technique called monter au beurre. “Mounting” (or finishing) a sauce with butter adds a glossy sheen and gives the raisin sauce a velvety texture.
Step 3: Pour and serve
Pour the raisin sauce warm over sliced ham. Serve.
- Add a fruity character: For a fruity raisin sauce, replace the water with fruit juice. Try pineapple, orange or apple juice.
- Add warming spices: Stir in a pinch of ground cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves. These fall spices add depth to savory-sweet sauces like raisin sauce.
- Make a rum-raisin sauce: Elevate the flavor of this ham sauce by adding 1/2 teaspoon rum extract.
How to Store Raisin Sauce for Ham
Raisin sauce for ham can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. We don’t recommend freezing it. Sauces made with cornstarch do not freeze well, and they become spongy when thawed.
Raisin Sauce for Ham Tips
What is raisin sauce?
Raisin sauce is a ham sauce thickened with cornstarch. It gets a sweet character from the raisins and brown sugar, and the addition of lemon juice and vinegar provides a tangy balance. Meanwhile, a little dry mustard adds a slightly spicy flavor, and butter adds richness to bring all the other flavors together.
What are the best sauces for ham?
The best sauces for ham have sweet ingredients that bring out the ham’s natural sweetness. It’s also important for a ham sauce to have acidic ingredients. Tangy flavors provide an important counterbalance to the saltiness of the ham. Raisin sauce for ham is classic because it boasts those sweet-tang flavors. If you don’t want to make a ham sauce, consider glazing the ham with similar flavors. Try bourbon-glazed ham, pineapple-glazed ham or maple-glazed ham.