Food & Drink

Glazed Ham with Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

6-8 (with 12 two-inch biscuits)

A tangy-sweet upgrade to traditional holiday ham—biscuits included

Johnny Autry

Ham has long been a holiday obsession for Billy Allin, the chef-owner of Cakes and Ale, a Decatur, Georgia, favorite (now closed). He first encountered the version that would come to define his Christmas as a teenager in Greenwood, South Carolina. Each year, his family’s friends the Harmons would soak a country ham in a cooler on their back porch for days, then coat it with a mixture of mustard and brown sugar. The resulting glaze would settle into the pan drippings, rendering a thick, sweet cousin of redeye gravy draping slices Allin couldn’t wait to snag.

“From the time I was fifteen until I was in college, we went over to the Harmons’ house and had that ham,” he says. “It’d be sitting out on their table with this glaze dripping all over it, and you would grab a biscuit, too. Pretty soon you were just digging into the glaze, it was so good.”

These days Allin doesn’t fuss with soaking the salt out of a country ham. He substitutes a good-quality, bone-in precooked ham, which gets a little added character from some whole cloves punched into the surface. But it’s the mustard, brown sugar, and vinegar glaze he slathers on top that’s the transformative element. Together with a bit of black pepper, the ingredients blend into a tangy gloss-coat that borrows the best flavors of a honey-baked ham and a South Carolina–style pork barbecue sauce.

For the accompanying biscuits, Allin likes an airy buttermilk drop version to mop up that glaze, a recipe he picked up from a neighbor when the family took a brief detour to live in Jacksonville, Florida. “I can’t even explain how tender they are,” he says. “They stay together just long enough to get into your mouth.”

For a holiday party, you could certainly make a traditional rolled biscuit, which would hold up better as a sandwich stuffed with ham and glaze. Or stick with Allin’s method and serve the ham family-style with tender drop biscuits piled high on the side. Either way, the trick is waiting long enough for any of it to reach the table. Often, Allin ends up standing in the kitchen over a pan of hot ham and dunking a just-baked biscuit into the pool of glaze right then and there. “That,” he says, “is my Christmas tradition.”



  • For the ham

    • 2 cups brown sugar

    • 1 cup yellow mustard

    • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

    • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

    • 1 5-lb. precooked, unglazed, bone-in ham

    • 10 whole cloves

  • Biscuits

    • 2 cups self-rising White Lily flour

    • 1 tsp. salt

    • 1 cup vegetable shortening (lightly packed)

    • 2/3– 3/4 cup buttermilk


  1. For the ham:
    Preheat oven to 325°F.

  2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

  3. Place ham on a foil-lined sheet tray, stud with cloves, and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Then, cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. Uncover ham, brush with half of the brown sugar mixture, and bake another half hour, basting with pan juices and the rest of the mixture every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest before slicing.

  4. For the biscuits:
    Preheat oven to 400°F.

  5. Stir together flour and salt, then dot with shortening and blend with a pastry cutter or your fingers until mixture resembles small pellets. Stir in buttermilk until just combined, adding a little more liquid if dough seems dry. Drop approximately 2-tablespoon-size mounds of dough onto a parchment-paper-lined sheet tray. Bake 7 minutes, rotate pan, and bake 6 to 7 minutes more.

Meet the Chef: Billy Allin

Restaurant: Cakes and Ale, Decatur, Georgia
Hometown: Greenwood, South Carolina
Favorite piece of kitchen equipment: A six-inch knife he found on a South Carolina street years ago when he was Rollerblading. “At home, I use it for everything. It’s made of some kind of old steel and it’s always sharp.”
Time he sets his alarm: 6:42 a.m., which allows enough time to make coffee and breakfast for himself and lunches for his kids, Liam, who is eleven, and Van, eight.